Record crowd flock to sunny Sevens

PACKED CROWD: Some of the more than 3,000 rugby fans who flocked to the Greene King IPA Sevens on Sunday enjoy the sunshine and Bury's match against the Braves
PACKED CROWD: Some of the more than 3,000 rugby fans who flocked to the Greene King IPA Sevens on Sunday enjoy the sunshine and Bury's match against the Braves
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A record crowd of more than 3,000 people flocked to Bury St Edmunds RFC on Sunday for the return of the star-studded international rugby Sevens.

The event, now in its fifth year and sponsored by Greene King, saw Saracens defeat defending champions Samurai Barracudas 41-26 to claim the Elite crown at a sun-drenched Haberden.

There was also joy for home side Bury, who defeated the Braves in the final of the eight-team Open competition 29-14.

Aviva Premiership sides Northampton Saints, Leicester Tigers and Worcester Warriors were represented on the day, while Saints and England lock Courtney Lawes appeared as a special guest.

As well as the action on the pitch, there were trade stalls, a hog roast, and the Suffolk Beer Festival.

Former England Sevens manager and Bury director of senior rugby Terry Sands, who helped organise the playing side of the event, said Sunday’s showcase was the ‘biggest yet.’

“It’s the biggest crowd and probably the strongest tournament we have had as well,” he said. “The volunteers we have got at this club are fantastic.

“They have been at it for two or three days and evenings and have all rolled their sleeves up.

“We had five teams who were on standby that we couldn’t get into the tournament and we had local teams who we would have liked to have got in, but we have had to leave them out.

“We seem to have more and more Premiership teams that are interested in playing.”

Sands added: “I’m a big advocate of Sevens and I think it helps players develop into athletes. It gives them awareness of space. In terms of spectators, the game is a much more exciting game.

“It is quicker and faster, arguably more skilful, and there’s no hiding place for players.”

Special guest Lawes, who presented trophies and signed autographs on the day, believes Sunday’s event is a great promotion for the game of Sevens, with the sport set to make its Olympic debut at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“The event has been helped by the weather and it’s a brilliant atmosphere,” he said. “The rugby being played is at a very high level as well which is only going to help promote the sport.

“I do enjoy watching Sevens. It’s a shorter game, which some would say is a lot more exciting at times.

“The ball gets thrown around a bit more and it’s 
certainly a bit easier to watch than your everyday game.”

Lawes’ Northampton teammate Ben Foden did not make the event after 
picking up a minor injury for the Saints at the weekend and was ordered to rest up at home ahead of a crucial Aviva 
Premiership semi-final 
game.