The day’s schedule got underway at 2.30pm when the Vagabonds junior academy lined out against visitors, Ban Sainamyen School who travelled from Patong to compete against the home side in their very first match day experience.
While the All Blacks impressed against Australia on television, this new generation of Phuket rugby players enthralled parents and supporters alike with an exhibition of fearless tackling and determined running. Soon, even those trying to watch the Rugby Championship abandoned the big screen in favour of cheering on both junior teams as they traded tries up until the last five minutes of the game.
Having given their all, Vagabonds eventually succumbed to a very rapid Patong attack, conceding two late tries to give the visitors a 5-3 win.
Result aside, both teams and their coaching support must be extremely proud of how the game was played in terms of spirit, effort and attitude, while a number of fine individual performances caught the attention of Vagabonds senior players and coaches, in all signifying a healthy future and positive development for Phuket rugby.
Turn of pace
Overseeing the senior encounter, Rucus Malan from South Africa would expertly officiate the match, paying particular attention to ensuring player safety at the breakdown, but allowing good continuity and ultimately having to furnish just one yellow card, an indication of the discipline and of the good spirit in which the game was played.
From the outset, both teams hit their lines at pace, but it was the Southerners who were first to impact on the game following a weighted chip from the boot of Merrick Fairall, which eventually found the hands and momentum of Craig Morgan to crash through for a try under the posts.
Southerners captain, Nic Bruno calmly collected the conversion, but almost immediately he would see his side’s advantage evaporate as a hopeful punt downfield from the Northerners gave rise to a foot race between speedsters Kyle Addison and Angus Hamilton.
It was Addison who reached the ball first and seemed to have secured possession before a rare lapse in the South African’s composure caused a fumble for the pursuing Hamilton to snatch the errant oval and touchdown, while soon after North’s captain, Paul Rothwell uncharacteristically skewed his conversion attempt to allow the South to maintain a two-point advantage.
Unfortunately for the North, Addison would more than compensate for his earlier error in notching up four tries for the South over the next three periods, the opposition finding his turn of pace difficult to counteract when he found room to roam.
Additional tries from Fairall, Huko Benham and Tashy Amien in response to a Rothwell try took the game away from the North. But while it was a one-sided score line, the game was not so, remaining highly competitive up to the final whistle, which marked a well-earned victory for the Southerners.
‘Competitive banter, pride and bragging rights’
Vagabonds coach, Dave Walker was on hand to advise both teams and expressed his delight at the standard of rugby played throughout the day. “Today was an opportunity to try out certain combinations and put into effect what we’ve been practising,” he said. “This was a Sevens game made up of players from the Northern and Southern hemispheres, which added a nice touch of competitive banter, pride and bragging rights,” he said.
“The game was refereed very professionally and both teams started with calm and the composure we were looking for, the North trying to build phases and the South snapping up any mistakes, making a nice ebb and flow to the game in the first half.
“Tackles were hard and fair throughout and both teams tested and stretched each other with strong forward carries, well executed back moves and the cheeky chip and chase, all proving very effective, both teams showing great awareness in how they played.
“It was a great game of rugby, the standard was very high, and made for some great moments and tries,” said Dave.
Victorious captain, Nic Bruno grimaced through the pain of a dislocated finger, but was enthused at the event’s success. “It’s always a cracking day to play rugby with the boys, and it was an extra special moment to see the Vagabonds academy team have their first contact match against Sainamyen School,” he said.
“The seniors’ game was a very competitive affair, with the Northerners putting up a good fight the whole way through. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, and the physicality they brought was immense and constant throughout both halves. Thank you to everyone who made this event possible,” said Nic.
Northerners’ captain, Paul Rothwell also voiced his appreciation. “Big thanks to all those involved in another fantastic day of rugby. It was great to see the Vagabonds academy players open the proceedings with their first competitive match. The skills and bravery of the young players was excellent and they certainly took a lot from the match,” said Paul.
“The seniors’ game was hard fought and competitive. The rugby was of a very high standard and it was clear to see the progression the teams have made in creating opportunities with the ball and having good organisation in defence.
“It was a pleasure to be part of it and I’m looking forward to more fixtures later in the year,” he added.