The tournament kicked off last Friday (May 25) with the traditional Athena Siam Coffin Dodgers vets (over 35s) with two groups of four teams vying for honours. Previous winners the Morrabbin Rams from Australia in group A took immediate control by beating the Asian Japanese Dragons Gold, and the Australian Gold Coast Barbarians showed that the Rams wouldn’t have it all their own way by taking out the Hong Kong Bulls.
In Group B the Jaegermeister Wanderers Wrinklies took control beating the Singapore Bucks whilst the local Phuket Viagrabonds went down to the Al Ain Amblers.
A new addition to the tournament the “One Foot in the Grave” over 45s saw three teams competing with the Moorabbin Rams and the Sham 69 Cottesloe Pirates making the final after the Phuket Viagrabonds faded as the day went on.
Once day one was done and dusted, Sunday’s Athena Siam vets finals would be the Singapore Bucks va Asian Japanese Dragons Gold in the Bowl final, Jaegermeister Wrinklie Assassins v Phuket Viagrabonds in the Plate final, and the Morrabbin Rams taking on the Gold Coast Babas in the Cup Final.
In contrast to the Friday, the action on Saturday (May 28) got underway in torrential rain with the Ladies Tournament seeing the Southerners Ladies and the Bangkok Bangers Belles prevail over spirited HKFC sides.
By the end of the day the Southerners had made Sunday’s Ladies Plate Final against the HKFC Fire and The Bangers Belles would contest the Cup against the HKFC Ice team.
In the men’s Aussie Bar open tournament it soon became clear that the teams to beat would be the East Admiralty Football Club and the Headhunter Sport Barbarians as they dominated their pool games but a strong showing by the Singapore Wanderers and the Phuket Vagabonds, growing stronger as the tournament progressed, showed that they wouldn’t have it their own way.
The Asian Japanese Dragons, Bedok Kings, Naughty Nuris Vagabonds and the Beaver Nomads would all progress to Sunday’s Cup quarter-finals whilst the rest of the teams would vie for Bowl and Shield honours.
Sunday’s finals began in brilliant sunshine with the Pattaya Panthers progressing to the Bowl semi-final with a win over the local Thai side the Old Man Mix whilst the Dubai Wasps, Gold Coast Barbarians and Groote Eylandt Mudchooks all made the Bowl Semis. The Old Man Mix, Prince of Songkla, Misfits and Jakarta Komodos all dropped down into the Shield semis.
In the Cup quarter-finals the Phuket Vagabonds found their route to the semis that little bit easier getting a walkover against the Beaver Nomads. East Admiralty clicked into gear beating Bedok Kings 26-5 and the Headhunter Sport Babas showed their class to brush aside a strong Asian Japanese side 26-0. The Wanderers gained a walkover against the Naughty Nuris Vagabonds who dropped down into the Plate semi-final.
Before the finals kicked off, the Asia Center Foundation did their annual children’s scholarship presentation with the Khatu Wittyalai School band doing a rendition of the Thai National Anthem. A presentation by the Bangers on Bikes, who do an annual bike ride of over a 1,000 kilometres in under five days to raise funds for the ACF, presented ACF’s CEO Roelien Muller with a cheque for B580,000 to help with the school. A great effort which will continue for many years to come.
Leading up to the cup final, the Morrabbin Rams won the over 45s comp, the Bangkok Bangers Belles won the Ladies Cup, and the Southerner ladies won the Plate.
In the Athena Siam Coffin Dodgers Vets Cup Final, the Morrabbin Rams were beaten by the Gold Coast Barbarians, the Phuket Viagrabonds took the Plate final whilst the Asian Japanese Gold took out the Bowl.
In the Aussie Bar Open, the Shield went to the Old Man Mix, a great result for the local Thai lads, whilst the Bowl was won by the Gold Coast Barbarians. The Plate Final was won by Naughty Nuris Vagabonds to cap a great tournament for the Phuket sides.
However, a stern test awaited defending champions the Phuket Vagabonds as they took on the East Admiralty Football Club in the Cup semi-final a game that was exceptional in skill, pace and defence from the off.
The Vagabonds got the first breakthrough to lead by 7-0 but the Easts boys fought back to score just after half time to make it 7-5. The 2nd half was even until the final few minutes when the Vagabonds took advantage of a loose pass to score in the corner and win 12-5 to reach the Final. The Headhunter Sport Babas were handed a walkover in their semi-final when the Wanderers couldn’t field a team.
The Final kicked off in front of an expectant full house with the experienced Babas team looking to exert control through their forwards but a solid Vagabonds defence wouldn’t break. This resulted in the Babas kicking away possession to Vagabonds sweeper Skinny who ran through 22 breaking tackles to score under the posts to give the Vagabonds a slender 7-0 lead. The Headhunters immediately hit back with a sustained period of possession which resulted in a try in the corner. Half-time 7-5 and all to play for.
The second half was dominated by some brutal hits and sublime skills by both sides and as it looked like the 7-5 scoreline would be enough to win it, but a fumble on their own line by Babas’ sweeper resulted in another try for the Vagabonds leaving them to take control, and with the last play of the game the Vagabonds forwards, who were immense throughout, drove over to score to make sure that the Vagabonds were crowned 2018 Champions and retain the trophy.
Among all the happiness, this year’s event was tinged with sadness as all involved remembered two special people who had made Phuket Rugby and especially the 10s what it is today, Eam Thavornvongwongse 1946-2018 and Maria Elisabeth Cotter 1963-2018. Gone but never forgotten!
Furthermore, at 5.30am last Sunday morning (May 27), Scott Mayne of the Melbourne Morrabbin Rams set off on a solo run in an attempt to cover 50 kilometre to raise B50,000 baht for the Asia Center Foundation.
Not only did Mayne succeed in finishing the run after six and a half hours he raised B57,620 to be used in the ACF’s bid to build a sports facility at their new school.
Thanks go out from the organisers to all the teams, Jean Luc and all the refs, and supporters who make this tournament so special, and without the sponsors – Athena Siam Co Ltd, Aussie Bar Phuket, Thanyapura Sports Club, The Phuket News, Haardthip Co Ltd, Asia Center Foundation, Phuket International Hospital, KhukKhak Design, SEALS Sports Photography, So Good, Papa Rock and Strategic Sports – the event could not be hosted.
See you in 2019!