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The Siam Cup 2023; a personal account

The Siam Cup returned to Jersey’s shores earlier this month for the 103rd time between the respective rugby clubs of Jersey Rugby Football Club (‘Jersey RFC’) and the Guernsey Raiders. The Siam Cup is the second oldest rugby trophy in the world (2nd to the Calcutta Cup), and its existence is steeped with an interesting and chequered history.

SaSo Strategic Advisers have a very keen affiliation with Jersey RFC as our very own financial adviser, Euan Spencer, plays for the first team. He was once again selected to play for the first team against the Guernsey Raiders on Saturday, 6 May, in The Siam Cup!

Jersey had a lot to play for and a score to settle. Following the brutal back-to-back defeats to Guernsey last year (played a week apart to make up for the match missed due to COVID), Jersey knew they had a lot to make up for and was focused on nothing else but taking the title back from the Guernsey Raiders.

We spoke with Euan ahead of the Siam Cup fixture, and one of the reasons he cited for Jersey’s defeats last year was a lack of depth in the squad; with three of their key players having encountered injuries in the first match, this meant the Jersey team were at a disadvantage before kick-off the following week.

“It was a tough week for us in May 2022, and we knew we needed to bounce back strong”, said Euan Spencer, SaSo Strategic Adviser and Jersey RFC second rower.

And bounce back they did – in fact, the intervening season between the 2022 & 2023 Siam Cups could not have gone better for Jersey RFC, who completed a perfect campaign in the Counties 1 Hampshire league (the 7th tier of English rugby) in which they won all 21 of their league fixtures gaining promotion to the Regional 2 South Central league (the 6th tier of English Rugby). The squad, bolstered by adding two retired former Jersey Reds players, Jack McFarlane and Roy Godfrey, meant Jersey was well-placed to give Guernsey a good match and cap their season off with a Siam Cup.

The Siam Cup has, in recent years, been contested across four different levels on the same day, and this year each match was played on the main pitch at Stade Santander International, which treated everyone in attendance to an action-packed day of rugby. It turned out to be a day for Jersey fans as they won the Nash (veteran’s), Women’s Siam, Men’s Siam & Fallaize (Men’s 2nd XV) trophies.

Now that Euan has had the chance to come back down to Earth, we asked him to provide us with a personal account of the day’s play.

Here, in Euan’s own words, is his commentary on the 103rd Siam Cup:

“We started strongly in the opening exchanges and quickly established a 17-3 lead thanks to two converted tries and a penalty. However, Guernsey returned with an intercepted try, and another score brought them back to within just a couple of points. Penbo (former Jersey Reds fly-half Aaron Penberthy) then added another 3 points via a penalty before half-time to take the score to a very tight 20-15 halftime lead.

We knew we were in a game at the interval, and shortly after the break, we gave away a penalty, and the Guernsey fly-half took his opportunity to bring them back within 2 points. We responded well, though, scoring two tries to put us 32-18 in the lead going into the final quarter of the match.

An impressive try from Guernsey Raiders’ number 13 (his second of the game) led to some tense moments for our fans as a comeback began to look likely, but we held on and managed to score another try and kick over another penalty to take us clear."

Final score Jersey RFC 42-26 Guernsey Raiders

SaSo Strategic Adviser’s Euan Spencer, who was number 4 for Jersey on the day, described the match as “physical” and a “tight contest”, with the back-and-forth scoring certainly backing this up. “We did very well to come out on top against a very strong Guernsey side”, elaborated Euan.

This year’s Siam Cup celebrations for Jersey began earlier in the day with the Nash Cup for “veteran” male players over 35 (although there is often some bending of this rule to allow each island to field a full team each year).

Several familiar Jersey faces took to the field once more, having beaten Guernsey the previous year 81-5, thanks partly to the superb cameo of former England international Matt Banahan.

Jersey won the opening match 31-24, with Guernsey within one score of the hosts in a game many thought would not be as close as it was, especially as Guernsey only had 14 players.

Following the veterans’, Jersey RFC Women sought, like the Jersey RFC Men’s, to regain their Siam title, which they narrowly lost in Guernsey last year, and so they did, in style, putting in an imperious performance in the first half of the Women’s Siam, resulting in a 26-0 lead at half-time. The hosts and visitors traded tries in the second half, with the final score 31-5.

The rugby concluded with the return of the Fallaize Cup, a match contested between the 2nd XV’s of each island. A fixture which had not been contested since 2019 as more and more of Jersey’s amateur players were called up to the 1st XV Siam match.

The crowd may have reduced slightly as many Guernsey fans needed to catch their return boat from the harbour. However, the St. Peter faithful that stayed on were treated to an epic contest full of free-flowing rugby.

The Jersey 2nd XV comprised of; squad players unlucky to miss out on the 1st XV fixture, a handful of players that played in the 1st XV fixture minutes earlier (who still had something left in the tank to play a second match), as well as several players from the other amateur rugby club, Royals RFC. The Royals RFC players took a trip out West from their usual stomping ground at Grainville. They competed against players from the Guernsey 2nd XV team, St Jacques’ Vikings, along with one or two Guernsey Raiders who were not selected for the main Siam fixture.

Guernsey looked as if they were ready to spoil the party and at times threatened to do so; however, they were ultimately unsuccessful as Jersey RFC ran in 41-26 winners to cap off a memorable day for Jersey supporters.

Some brilliant rugby was on show at Jersey Rugby Club. It was a day that SaSo Strategic Advisers would never forget. They enjoyed watching both Islands battle it out, hosting many valued clients from Jersey and Guernsey.

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