Although Jersey RFC has risen five rungs up the RFU ladder since the tournament started in 1997, and now has a professional 1st XV competing in the Greene King IPA Championship (level two of the RFU pyramid), the Vets has remained as a beacon of old-school rugby. There are no warm-downs, no protein shakes and the ice cubes go into the gin-and-tonics, not the bath.
The format of the tournament has remained largely unchanged, apart from a few tweaks to reflect changes in numbers of teams or amendments to kick-off times when there are World Cup matches to be watched. All teams gather for a Friday night reception where there is the chance to meet friends old and new and get into the swing of the event.
Around 12noon on Saturday, the rugby gets underway – teams are divided into groups and play in a round-robin format. The rugby will usually conclude at around 4.30pm/5pm on the Saturday, allowing plenty of time for players to re-hydrate, initially at the rugby club bar and then at the many pubs, bars and clubs which Jersey has to offer.
Regardless of results on Saturday, everyone reports for duty, with just the odd modest hangover, on Sunday morning for the knock-out stages – all teams are split between the Cup, Bowl and Plate events, depending on their results on Saturday. The event culminates in the finals to the three events, followed by a presentation ceremony at around 3pm.
Although teams are playing to win, especially as the tournament nears its climax, the emphasis is also on fun and there are a number of awards such as the Champagne Moment, the Oldest Player etc.
2017 Roll of Honour
Cup Final: Guy’s Hospital Penguins 21 Thin Blue Line 17
Bowl: Ossett 35 Super Frelons 12
Plate: RAF Vultures 45 Jersey Wanderers 7
Shield Final: Leeds Corinthians Rattlers 38 Weybridge Vandals 14
Participating teams for 2018:
Gloucestershire Constabulary – Thin Blue Line
Guys Hospital Penguins
Henley RFC x 2 (‘Suckers’ & ‘Fockers’)
Les Coquillarts (St Brieuc, France)
New Ash Green
Breizh Iascars (Pays de Fougères, France)
Royal Air Force Vipers
Super Frelons (Le Rheu, France) x 2
In a changing world, it was reassuring to see the Vets event continuing as a beacon of old-school rugby traditions. The professional game may have evolved considerably since 1997, and the host club boasts a fully professional set-up, but for plenty of people rugby is a passion, not a profession, and around 300 such players, all aged 35 or over, and another 100+ tourists, plus Jersey-based spectators, were at JRFC to prove it.
Lots of familiar faces were here – 14 of this year’s 15 teams had been here before in some shape or form. Hosts Jersey Wanderers have been ever-present, of course, but the endurance award goes to the Super Frelons, who made the journey from Le Rheu, near Rennes, for the 17th consecutive year.
At the other end of the spectrum, there two groups of ‘tour virgins’: Old Green from Fougères in Brittany, and the Thin Blue Line from Gloucestershire Constabulary.
The tournament kicked off officially on Friday evening with a welcome event at Chambers, the St Helier bar whose parent company Randalls, long-time supporters of JRFC, had kindly agreed to sponsor the Super 10s for the first time.
The kick-off on the field was at 12.30pm on Saturday, using pitches two, three and four at St Peter with a tented village for teams, a food and drink van and hydration courtesy of Jersey Water. The tents were put to good use, as the weather got gradually greyer and wetter, but this didn’t deter the players from rolling back the years in some entertaining fixtures.
The beauty of the tournament has always been that everyone is back for more on Sunday, whether for the quarter-finals of the main event or the Plate and Bowl events for lower-ranked sides after the pool games. Even if there were a few sore heads, some aching limbs, and kit-bags full of damp shirts.
Everyone left the tented village just after 1pm and moved to Stade Santander International a.k.a. the Field of Dreams or pitch 1, for the four finals, which took place in warm sunshine. Two of the four trophies ended up in Yorkshire, with Leeds Corinthian Rattlers taking the Shield 38-14 over Weybridge Vandals, and Ossett the Bowl (for losing quarter-finalists) by 35-12 over the Super Frelons.
Jersey Wanderers, although denied the services of many eligible players, battled their way through to the Plate Final, but were downed by heavy bombardment from the RAF Vultureswith only a lone try from sniping Stevie Byrne in response.
The best contest was saved for last, with Guy’s Hospital Penguins, in their second trip to the Island, taking on new boys the Thin Blue Line. It ebbed and flowed, with some stout defence limiting the scoring to just two tries apiece by the closing stages. Blue Line then took the contentious – but entirely legal according to tournament rules – option of taking a penalty kick at goal to move 17-14 ahead, but the Penguins had the last laugh by going almost the whole length of the field to score a winning try with the last play.
The presentation of the trophies featured some great banter and camaraderie before everyone adjourned to the bar for a final pint or three – beer sales had been high!
We’d like to thank Club Manager Sean, Groundsman Mylo and the army of staff and helpers; the referees and physios; our photographer Jacquie, our music man Chris and our President Cliff (yes, he’s been promoted!) for services on the microphone, Jersey Water for services to re-hydration, Mailmate for printing the programme and Randalls for their sponsorship. Also to Kate Innes for her organisational skills that have been a feature of the event from the word go.
If your club is interested in future tournaments, please contact tournament organiser Kate Innes – email@example.com