The Phuket Vagabonds – sponsored by Hooters Phuket and featuring a mix of experience, youth and debutantes were using the opportunity for team bonding and identifying new talent.
After winning the tournament in 2014 and being runners up in 2015, the Vagabonds weren’t expecting to vie for honours this year but were looking forward to enjoying the tournament and gaining experience.
Day one saw them take on the Chiang Mai Tigers, they fell behind early to a try by the Tigers, but getting their game together in the second half the Vagabonds ran out 19-5 winners after tries by Kim Goodburn, Willy Gramond and Tjaart Van Der Walt.
In the second game, the Vagabonds ran through the gears and destroyed the Borrelli Walsh side from Hong Kong 48-0 with Kim Goodburn & Nicky Murphy grabbing a brace apiece along with tries for Tyronne Veltman, Justin Swart and Willy Gramond.
The last game of the day saw the Vagabonds take on the hosts and one of the tournament favourites the Pattaya Panthers. The Vagabonds got off to a dream start as Willy Gramond took the ball from the kick off and sprinted in at the corner for a 5-0 lead.
There after it was a game of attrition with both defences being outstanding, but eventually, late in the second half, the Panthers broke through to tie the game 5-5.
The Vagabonds finished top of the table and earned themselves a cup quarter final place against the French Asian Barbarians.
As is usual with Vagabonds rugby they were growing into the tournament and the French Asian Barbarians were on the end of some brilliant interchanging play by the Vagabonds and went down 26-5 with Nicky Murphy, Mai, Justin Swart and Newman Muhammad getting on the score sheet.
The Vagabonds were into the cup semi final, a game to be played against Ubon Ratchathani, the best Thai team at the tournament.
First half tries by Newman Muhammad and Kim Goodburn put the Vagabonds in the driving seat, but a converted try by Ubon led to a nervy last few minutes before the Vagabonds prevailed 12-7 and booked a place in the final.
The cup final was against the Southerners who had beaten the Vagabonds in the 2015 final. In a fast and furious first half, dominated by brutal defence and fast flowing counter attacks, neither side could break the other down and it was all square at half time 0-0.
From the start of the second half the Southerners were on the offence and encamped on the Vagabonds line where again solid defence stopped them short.
A crunching tackle on a Southerner saw the ball go loose to be snapped up by Justin Swart who out sprinted the defence to go 95 metres and score under the posts.
With Kim Goodburn adding the extras, the Vagabonds were in the driving seat.
However, the Southerners team didn’t lie down and came charging back and kept the Vagabonds under intense pressure close to the line, but again resolute tackling saw the line hold.
As the clock ticked down a series of penalties near the line saw the defence finally breached in the corner, and being the last play of the game the conversion needed to go over to force extra time, but the kick fell short and the Vagabonds had done the impossible and become champions.
It was a brilliant effort by all concerned on and off the pitch, and congratulations go out to the Southerners Rugby Club for a hard, entertaining game of rugby.
The Vagabonds will now turn their attention to their home tournament the “Hooters Phuket International Rugby 10s” to be held over the May 27-29 weekend, and as defending champions will hope to retain the trophy.