Around 2,500 people braved some stormy weather to take in another feast of top rugby at Bury ’s Greene King IPA International Rugby Sevens.
Premiership giants Northampton Saints won the Elite tournament on Sunday for the second successive year after bringing a strong squad managed by former England and Leister Tigers player Dusty Hare, now Saints’ academy manager.
England and Saracens forward Billy Vunipola proved a star attraction off the field signing autographs and posing for pictures, along with England Sevens’ Warrick Lahmert, who switched allegiances from New Zealand earlier this year, and Lawshall’s England Women’s player Sasha Acheson.
Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club chairman Mike Robinson hailed the event, in its seventh year, as another massive success.
He said: “It was a superb day, especially considering the weather, but the Great British public are fantastic at adopting a stiff upper lip and they carried on watching what has been some outstanding rugby.
“They are real elite athletes. The guys that Northampton Saints brought, virtually all of them have played in the Premiership at some point this season and just shows the quality of the teams that were here.
“Saracens had a lot of stars in their side and some of the sides, like Samurai, have brought international players over here. So it is a truly outstanding tournament.”
Due to injuries, Premiership side Sale Sharks pulled out with Zoo Sport Ronin moving up into the Elite competition, while the international sides from China and Wales were not able to make an appearance in the Women’s tournament.
Northampton Saints winger Tom Collins was awarded the Player of the Tournament for some dazzling tries, while his team also included Alex Day and Cam Dolan.
The final saw Saints’ pedigree tell with a comfortable 49-19 victory over Apache, having been 28-0 ahead at the turnaround.
Saracens, who included England Sevens’ Sam Stanley and USA’s World Cup player Thretton Palamo, won the Elite Plate with a 24-7 win over Esher.
Bury Barbarians, consisting of players from Bury’s promotion-winning squad, lost 21-7 to Samurai, drew 12-12 with Zoo Sport Ronin and lost 17-14 to Worcester in their pool matches before losing 14-7 to Esher in the Plate semi-final.
In the Women’s competition, Bury Foxes lost their group games 24-0 to Harwich and 15-5 to Wymondham, but won their third-place play-off with Tonbridge in the Bowl final 12-0.
FRN were the winners of the Women’s competition, while Samurai Bulldogs carried off the Open Cup, which included a side from Stowmarket and ex-Bury players in the Bury Gents team, and Culford School won the third-place Bowl final.
A large crowd stayed for the final match of the day, as Bury St Edmunds Academy took on Colchester Colts in the 15-a-side game on the first-team pitch in the Eastern Counties Youth Cup.
But the home side were unable to lift the cup, with two tries in the latter stages of the second half only bringing the scoreline to 43-21.
Robinson added his thanks to the star guests, spectators and army of volunteers and organisers.
“It is a fantastic example of teamwork,” he said. “There is a huge number of people who take time to organise this event in addition to their day job with the event chairman, Neil Ireland, who has done a terrific job behind the scenes.”