By Rob Heginbotham
The Henley Vultures returned from the Jersey Super 10’s Tournament last weekend as winners of both the main Cup and Plate trophies.
This was the fourth year that the Vultures had been to the tournament, which they also won in 2016. This year, 34 players and management made the trip, which was very much in tribute to Simon Priestley, who had been one of the leaders of the previous trips, and who tragically died whilst playing back in January.
The numbers on tour meant that the Vultures were able to field 2 sides, suitably named the “Suckers” and the “Rockers”.....and on the first day of the tournament, they experienced contrasting fortunes.
The Rockers, under the leadership of Mark Venner, found themselves in a tough group, and despite creating numerous chances, managed to go through 3 games without scoring a single point, and retired to the bar to contemplate a most “un-vulturelike” performance.
The Suckers however, with Steve Barnes in charge, had no such problems and breezed through their group winning all three games and only conceding 1 try whilst scoring over 100 points.
After a night of traditional rest and relaxation activities, finals day arrived on Sunday. The Rockers had clearly roused themselves from the depths of their awful Saturday, and proceeded to win both their quarter and semi-final games, and thus ended up in the final against Old Freemen’s. The wheels appeared to have fallen off again, as the Rockers went 3 tries behind, and all looked lost.
However, cometh the hour, and up stepped Jimmy Anderson (he wishes!!) who produced an amazing 12 minutes of Rugby, which saw him score 4 tries himself, and a rather stunned group of Rockers found themselves winning the plate competition. Lazarus has been contacted, and clearly the Rockers “Jimmy A” has something of the timing (and the same script writer) as his more illustrious namesake.
The Suckers, now tagged as tournament favourites, comfortably accounted for the miners from Ossett in the Cup Quarter final, and then took revenge on “The Thin Blue Line”...aka Gloucestershire Police – who had put the Vultures out of the tournament at the semi-final stage last year – with a thumping 38-0 victory.
The Cup Final opponents were the RAF Vipers, who sported British Lion, Alan Bateman and a couple of other former first class players in their ranks. In something of a mirror of the Plate final, the Suckers found themselves 3 tries down, before deciding that anything the Rockers could do, they could as well, and 2 tries from flier Will Spriggs, and then one each from former Hawks Legends Matt Payne and Tom Allen (the latter with the last play of the game), saw another amazing comeback secure the Cup for the Vultures for the second time.
Tom Allen was also named player of the tournament, no doubt secured by his decisive score in the final
An excellent tournament, with the highest standard of play overall from the last four years, and still just as many sore heads.