A father took matters into his own hands when rugby rules changed, preventing his daughter from playing against boys.
Blackheath resident Robert Ballantyne-Evans had been taking his 11-year-old daughter Isabella to play in Greenwich for years.
Then the Rugby Football Union (RFU) governing body implemented the Age Grade Rugby programme in 2016, which meant that girls over the age of 11 could not play contact rugby with boys.
In response the 41-year-old started a girls’ rugby tournament where more than 150 players turned up on Wednesday in Well Hall, Eltham.
Mr Ballantyne-Evans, a coach at Blackheath RFC, said: “The idea was born out of frustration. Obviously the physicality is changing. Unfortunately she has no new home to go to. Not enough girls are playing at her age group or to her level and so she has hit a brick wall as far as her playing career goes.
“Over the years I have made enquiries as to how to get a girls’ team going, especially at a club such as Blackheath. It’s taken a bit of a push, but the club are now behind us.
“Women’s rugby is slowly gaining momentum, helped in part by the superb England performance in the World Cup last year. I liken it to football 15 years ago. Now each major club has a competitive women’s section. In short, I hope that this open day is the beginning of something bigger, encouraging youngsters who might ordinarily not get the opportunity.”
Mr Ballantyne-Evans invited local schools to bring their students to play matches and engage in exercises helped by Blackheath coaches, senior women’s players and girls
from the club’s mini section. The May Hill Road resident said: “It’s been an amazing experience from it being a little idea in a pub, to bringing it to life.
“I’m looking to create a junior girls’ team at Blackheath now. We’ve had three schools asking to join a league. “By the time we got home on Wednesday I had two parents calling up to ask if their daughters could join the team.
“It’s a great feeling.”