Ex-Chiefs prove Beach Kings
By Mark Stevens
Form is temporary, yet class is permanent.
And so it proved for the Exeter Chiefs Veterans side that lifted the inaugural Charles Stanley South West Beach Rugby trophy at Exmouth.
With glorious sunshine overhead all weekend, crowds packed around the three pitches for the new tournament, set-up by former Chiefs winger Matt Jess and his wife Sarah to raise funds for the RNLI, Restart Rugby and The Royal Marines Charity.
The event saw the popular Devon seaside resort transformed for the competition, which attracted 28 Mens and Women's teams on Day One and a further 22 Junior teams on Day Two.
Featuring former players Tony Yapp, Tom Johnson, Alan Miller, Kevin Barrett, Sam Blanchett, Nic Sestaret, Jack Arnott, Lewis Webb and Gary Kingdom, it was the Chiefs who proved the pick of the performers, working their way through the pool stages and into the final where they saw off the challenge of The Godfathers to claim the honours in the Men's Section.
In the Women's Section, Crediton Cougars emerged victorious, whilst youngsters from Topsham Rugby Club were the crowned champions of the Junior Section.
The Veterans team were not the only Chiefs representation as current stars Phil Dollman and Gareth Steenson took part in the competition, as did current defence coach Julian Salvi and former prop Chris Budgen.
"Matt and I were blown away with the whole weekend," said Sarah. "From start to finish, I don't think we could have asked for a better tournament. We were blessed with great weather throughout, but the teams, the spectators, everything, it was just brilliant."
The weekend was the culmination of months of planning for both Matt and Sarah and their small team of volunteers, including Viv Leonard.
"It took months and months to get it all sorted, but now it's over we're already looking to the future and have the wheel in motions for 2020," added Sarah. "A lot of work has gone in behind the scenes by our very small team, but it was all worth it when we saw the success of the weekend.
"A big thank-you has to go to all of our sponsors, most notably Charles Stanley who were our headline sponsors, as well as East Devon Council and the local community in and around Exmouth.
To find out more about South West Beach Rugby, click here