The ninth running of Bury St Edmunds’ Greene King IPA Sevens tournament may have been the first without an England rugby celebrity guest, but the lack of off-the-pitch stardust was certainly made up for on the pitch.
Four nations and two Premiership giants, featuring a sprinkling of international players, headed up by Samoa Sevens’ giant Belgium Tuatagaloa in holders’ Samurai Barracudas’ squad — put on a feast of top class sevens rugby that would not have looked out of place at the Olympics.
It was on that world stage in Brazil where rugby union’s shorter format was lapped up by a new audience.
But that was no secret to west Suffolk residents, who once again topped the 2,000 mark to line The Haberden’s two pitches on Sunday.
And the thrills and spills that had them cheering madly were not confined to the Elite competition — this year the first of four events in the I-Pro Sports Super Sevens Series, which had new winners with The British Army dethroning Bury’s performance director Terry Sands’ Samurai side.
The Open tournament saw home side Bury Barbarians storm to the final before losing out to one of the two Samurai development sides, Bulldogs Red, only after a golden score try in extra-time after the showpiece finished 24-apiece.
Bury St Edmunds chairman Mike Robinson hailed the part the home side played in making the tournament another resounding success, on what was director of rugby Gavin Hogg’s last day in the dugout before taking over at Old Elthamians .
“They played some terrific rugby,” said Robinson of Bury Barbarians’ day.
“They are not sevens specialists and they are up against some guys who are, so for them to get to that level was superb and shows how hard they have been training.
“And they should have won. A couple of minor mistakes, small margins, and it was so close.
“Gav did get some silverware (Open Runners-Up) too.
“It goes to show how far we have come, because six or seven years ago we would not have even won a pool game at this level, so it just goes to show the level of development that we have enjoyed over the last few years.”
Of Elite winners The British Army, who triumphed with six tries 36-5 in the final against Samurai Barrcudas, having overcome France and England’s IPF development side in the knockout stages, Robinson said: “They were outstanding. Their skill levels, their fitness levels, their power, their strength was all unbelievable.”
But he once again reserved special praise for the supporters and army of volunteers who made the day what it was.
“The atmosphere was superb, the bank (hill) was full and they saw some great rugby, so we really appreciate everyone coming done and we hope everyone enjoyed it.
“It is a real testament to the spirit of this club that we can put on such a big event.
“The club bar staff, club caterers and club volunteers all make this a special day. It is our best of the year, and without them it wouldn’t happen.”
n For a video interview with ex-England player Peter Richards, who guest-coached finalists Samura Barrcudas, log on to our website: www.buryfreepress.co.uk/sport