In weather conditions perfect for ducks and rugby, the two clubs brought out the big hits and hard runs for a large gathering of spectators eager to once again enjoy some live rugby action.
Having split their squads into two 10-a-side teams, with four games over 80 minutes, there was plenty to enjoy from the grandstand. It was the visitors, however, that claimed the day, winning all four games despite some tight contests.
The losses aside, many of the Phuket Vagabonds stood tall in their efforts with team captain Paul Rothwell putting on a show of pace and agility to best a splintered Bangers defence and run through for a try between the posts from just over halfway in game three.
Dan Ashburn was at his rampaging best taking up position in his preferred number 12 jersey, consistently breaking the defensive line and was of course at the centre of an all-in push and shove late in the day.
The Vagabonds scrum had vastly improved from earlier in the season with new forward recruits Florian Lounnas and Jim Hawthorne providing some added strength and experience, whilst Louis Greef provided some fast feet and brutal defence in the backline with his first outing in Vagabonds colours.
However, it was a standout performance from young Darren Brooks, playing in his first game for the Vagabonds, who was voted player of the tournament by his own team and nomiated as best Phuket player of the day by the opposition.
Special mention also to Luc Briand for some excellent involvements in his first ever rugby game, and for his completely illegal and yellow card deserving tackle on a runaway Banger without the ball. Also to Jon Rolt for making his rugby debut in the pack for the Vagabonds White team, a solid first hit out with the bruises to prove it.
Whilst the day was theirs, the Bangers team captain Travis Clements was full of praise for the local side in his comments after the match. “Epic is the only word that comes to mind when I think about the past weekend of rugby, socialising and cold beverages,” he said.
“The Phuket Vagabonds stood up to us with roaring intensity and physicality, and we were able to hold them off in some very tight games. A huge thanks must go out to the organisers, sponsors, spectators and the Phuket Vagabonds. We appreciate the hospitality of everyone involved during our tour and we can’t wait to build a closer relationships with the Vagabonds.”
Phuket Vagabonds head coach Dave Walker, who was grateful for the hit out against the experienced Bangkok squad, said, “It was a pleasure to welcome the Bangkok Bangers to Phuket for some rugby 10s.
“They played some good hard rugby, with great defence and excellent use of quick ball, which won them the day. Great to see these two clubs showcasing some great rugby and also giving opportunities with their development teams. Much fun was had by all afterwards too!”
Vagabonds Club President Anthony van Sleeuwen added, “It was fantastic to once again provide some live rugby for all of our supporters in Phuket.
“The 10-a-side format provided us an opportunity to not only improve on our fundamental skills but to also provide plenty of game time for some of our new recruits. We continue to improve with each outing and look forward more opportunities to develop in the coming weeks and months,” he added.
The ACG provided an ideal venue for the tournament, with one of the best pitch surfaces on the island and exemplary hospitality from the club house team.
ACG General Manager Neil Quail was delighted to host the event and praised his team in his post-match comments: “Since the Vagabonds established the ACG as its home ground over a year ago, an exciting sporting dynamic continues to evolve, not only drawing in players from around the island but also in developing the club’s youth rugby academy, many of whom thoroughly enjoyed Saturday’s gripping encounter against the Bangers.
“Being able to host the Bangers in association with the Vagabonds was a privilege, while I am also extremely proud of, and grateful for, the efforts made by the ACG team and supporters of the club in relation to ground preparation and servicing such a large crowd of enthusiastic spectators.
“We are very much looking forward to further successful rugby events, and with the continued exceptional dedication of players, coaches and management, rugby at the ACG is set to thrive well into the future.”
For those who missed out, there is still more live rugby to come for Phuket in 2021, with the Bangkok Southerners returning to our island shores next Saturday (Dec 4) for a much anticipated rematch following an earlier encounter in March.
The Vagabonds will then travel to Krabi on the weekend of Dec 11 and 12 to defend their title as Southern Thailand’s 7s Champions.
Further information can be found at the club website www.phuketvagabonds.com