THE biggest rugby event ever held in Bury St Edmunds went down a storm with fans, players, organisers and visiting teams.
With a large crowd in attendance at The Haberden, teams such as England, Saracens and Northampton Saints did battle – although the final result was somewhat of a surprise as Samurai Barracudas turned over England 21-19 in a thrilling encounter.
But one of the most memorable moments of the day went to Bury St Edmunds Gents’ Tim Mann after the winger breached the English defence to score a try for his home town club.
Mann, born and bred in the town, said: “It was a brilliant experience having all the England guys down here, and it was amazing to score as well.
“I ran the ball in from 22 metres and just managed to nudge a player out of the way and get over the line.
“All my body weight went behind it – there was nothing going to stop me.”
Ryan Freney also touched down for Bury in a first half that saw them match their international opponents. However, their resistance was finally ended with a 47-10 defeat.
Bury would go on to make the plate semi-finals – thanks to victory over Pod Sevens – before crashing to defeat at the hands of Esher.
Meanwhile, in the main competition, England had cruised into the final with impressive knockout victories over Aviva Premiership clubs Northampton Saints and Saracens (both 43-0).
Samurai Barracudas saw off the White Heart Marauders (31-7) and HFW Wailers (17-7) before upsetting England 21-19 in a thrilling encounter.
However, England’s main focus is on the final two rounds of the IRB World Sevens at Twickenham and Murrayfield at the end of this month.
Speaking just after his side had seen off Bury Gents, England coach Ben Ryan said: “It’s a hit out for us because these lads don’t play 15-a-side, they just play Sevens, so it gives us a bit of contact time and game time.
“It’s pretty unique that England would come and play against, with no disrespect to them, some fairly junior club sides.
“Whenever you come to these tournaments, you are on a bit of a hiding to nothing because everybody has nothing to lose, they will all have a bit of a crack at us with the odd late hit, but it’s a good learning curve for our lads to take that and deal with it.
“The pitches are surprisingly lush and you don’t always get a tent, most of the time you are cramped in the corner of a changing room with four other teams, so that’s nice.
“Everybody is really nice, there’s a big crowd and the sun is shining, so it’s exactly as we expected and it hasn’t disappointed.”
Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club’s director of rugby Terry Sands hopes the funds raised will help bring through the next generation of talent in the Suffolk town.
He added: “We are really trying to develop players throughout the club and although we have a lot of volunteers it is difficult to look after and develop every player.
“You can miss players and need to spend more time with them, but our volunteers also have day jobs, so some of the funding we get from the day will hopefully help us fund individual specialist coaching sessions.”