This weekend, Southerners Rugby Club travelled to Vietnam for the 2017 Wolf Blass Saigon Rugby Tens Tournament. This was the first time that both the Men’s and Women’s teams travelled internationally for a tournament together. We arrived (well four of the women and half of the men) at Ho Chi Minh City airport to be greeted by our welcome party of cheerleaders and with a whole tour bus for the four of us. We headed straight to the tournament hotel where we ran straight to the pool for the welcoming party – we are Southerners after all! The rest of the team arrived later but we needed the rest and time to get our heads in the game so we waited for the reunion to happen at breakfast.
For the first time ever, we were travelling with a squad of more players than we needed and despite some last minute changes, we were pumped and ready to give this tournament our all. We knew that our first match, against the Singapore Ladies Bucks, was probably going to be our toughest and we were proved right. They are a very well established team who have been playing together for a really long time and despite our massive improvement, our relative inexperience was obvious. We were not protecting the ball well enough in the rucks and the Bucks used this to their advantage every time, ripping the ball away and using their pace to utilise the overlap and get around our defence. The match ended 0-32.
In our second match we were up against the home team, the Saigon Lady Geckos. We had some experience of playing alongside a few of the team in Phuket so we were a little worried to play opposite them but we need not have worried. We had our own powerhouses in Kait, Brianne, Kayla and Chantel who held the experience and force of the Saigon team at bay. It was a closely fought battle with both teams having some good runs and also some great defensive play. The match ended 0-0.
Our last match of the day was against the Shining Rahus Ladies from Phnom Penh. We last faced them back at our very first tournament and we ran them really close, so we had a point to prove. With experienced tour pickup Jen playing scrum half, Val was able to return to her favourite position out on the wing. Early in the match a well executed ruck allowed us to get the ball out to Val who turned on the afterburners to beat the defence and cross over the try line – our first try of the tournament! The second half started well as we defended and retained possession for long periods. Considering this was the first time we had contested scrums, we were secure on our ball and even managed to win a few of theirs. However, exhaustion and a lot of pressure from repeated penalties on our line allowed the Rahus a last minute try and, unluckily for us, their kicker converted ending the match with a 5-7 loss in the dying seconds of the game. Heart breaking!
With all our matches done for the day we set about our fine session – even catching our Coach Stef with a BUFFALO!! Then all that was left to do was support our Men’s team and party the night away! I don’t think anyone could argue that Southerners were the party on that Saturday.
The Sunday started off with a very muted breakfast at the hotel followed by a fair amount of panic when we realised we had lost some players (and Coach Stef!) to the after effects of a day in the sun and rugby. Regardless, we rocked up to the pitch with 10 players and set about the business of our last pool match of the tournament. It was against the KL Tigers, who were definitely more keen than us – they were already warming up as we were still nursing our hangovers. Nevertheless, we kicked off and scored late in the first half with an amazing break and speedy run up the centre from Tang. The second half was a lot like the first with some hard hitting tackles, solid rucking and big scrums from the forwards. Tang could have made it a second try if it had not been for some illegal protection from team mate Chantel – who *may* have body checked a player off the ball. The match finished 5-0 and Southerners Women registered their first win of the tournament.
Next up was our semi final rematch against Shining Rahus Ladies, and after the devastating close loss in the last match we were out for revenge. However, they were a little fresher than us; we kicked too many balls, lost possession and they were taking full advantage while not making many mistakes. They led 0-5 at halftime. The second half started with us not adapting well to their set plays and not reading the overlaps when we had them. We lost a few balls in the rucks and they used this to score again. Another last minute try from the Rahus secured the win for them and placed us in the Plate Competition.
Our last match and plate final was against the Saigon Lady Geckos who asked for a boat race rather than having to play again. The fact that we said we would prefer the game time just shows how far we have come as a team. As kickoff approached in the searing heat, we began to regret the decision not to boat race but this was a chance at winning silverware so we had to leave it all on the field. A quick try straight from the kick off, saw the Southerners take the lead with Chantel narrowly missing the conversion. However, Saigon scored early in the second half to even the score and they converted the kick leaving us trailing by 2 points. With Tang sporting a sprained ankle, we borrowed a couple of players from good friends the KL Tigers who proved to be very useful. We held our heads high and dug deep to give the rest of the half everything we had and with the help of the KL winger, Chris, who had a cracking run and scored a try that she converted. Saigon were aggressive, after all it was their tournament, but our defense was tight and our tackles solid. In the final few minutes of the game we lost Brianne to a yellow card (naughty) for a high tackle (questionable as the linesman who witnessed it right in front of him said it was fine but we all know you have to play to the referee) meaning we had to try to hold onto our lead with only 9 players. All we had to do was to win possession and we would win the match and as the referee called for a Southerners scrum off a Geckos knock on, it was all over! A win in the plate final and our first silverware as a team!!!
It was a fantastic weekend for all the girls involved (even those who got injured) and we came away feeling really proud of how much we have grown as a team. Everyone gave it their all and even the boys commented on how much we have improved. Huge thanks to Nathalie for flying in to support us and Krazy Kate and Baby G for flying in from Taiwan & Hong Kong to join us and massive thanks to all the players we begged, borrowed and stole to make up numbers especially the KL Tigers who played for us even after we knocked them out. Also, to Jen who happened to be travelling through Saigon this weekend and gave up her weekend of tourism to play with us – you are forever a Southerner now! To our captain Moira for her amazing leadership and experience and for yelling at us to get into position. Finally to our coaches, for your commitment and all the time you give up to come and help us develop and progress as a team and all the lads for cheering us on from the sidelines and ran water – we are so appreciative of all your support and cheering – all in all a great weekend for the Southerners rugby family!