And what a spectacle it was. Forty minutes of fast and ferocious seven on seven rugby, as the Phuket Vagabonds launched their interclub grudge match with game one of the Vagabonds Sevens Tri-Series.
With the official provincial approval on spectators approved just in the nick of time, the ACG was converted from sleepy Sunday cricket club to a boisterous park footy ground as the island’s rugby faithful swarmed for some bone-rattling tackles, slick hands, fast feet and a fair bit of niggle.
Eager for a return to competitive, full contact rugby, the Vagabonds pitched mate against mate as the Reds and Blues faced off in a four quarter slug fest.
The first quarter saw the larger lumps in red push out to an early lead with some rapid phase play keeping the Blues on the back foot close to their line. With continued pressure, gaps were found in the Blues’ defensive line and Dan Ashburn barged his way over for try number one.
The Reds continued to dominate the quarter with aggressive ruck work to allow captain Paul Rothwell to find the try line before the end of the quarter.
The Blues fought back in the second quarter as some lose balls and misplaced kicks found their way into the ever dangerous hands of Shaun Kober, who turned the Reds defence inside out before putting team mate Craig Morgan into open space for a well worked try.
As the Reds continued to turn over possession and the set piece began to show cracks, the Blues scored three more times in the quarter.
The Reds started the third quarter with more strong running close to the ruck from their big ball carriers providing Rothwell an opportunity for a quick snipe over the try line to put them back in the match.
The momentum was short lived, however, with the deceptive footwork and strong contact of Kober leading him to the try line.
The Blues kept the Reds pinned on their line for most of the final quarter with Guy Choobal forcing his way over the line for the game sealing try.
The man of the match performance went to Paul Hickey who had his work cut out trying to keep the larger Red pack at bay.
Overall the day was a fantastic exhibition of the hard work put in by a resurgent Vagabonds club and their highly dedicated players. The Vagabonds would like to extend a special thank you to Neil Quail and the team at the ACG for an outstanding effort in hosting the event, the first of many.
A special mention also goes out to Nathan Thoday whose enthusiasm and commitment during his four months on the island have been a driving factor behind the success of the event.
Game two has been scheduled for July 31, with the Vagabonds eager to build on a highly competitive first outing.
The club are also pleased to be launching the long awaited Junior Rugby Academy with Saturday morning training sessions starting on July 10 running for 10 consecutive weeks. For more information visit the website www.phuketvagabonds.com