Before a crushing 46-16 loss courtesy of the Shanghai Rugby Club sullied their undefeated season, the Guangzhou Rams had high hopes for ending their China Cup drought on home turf Saturday.
Before kickoff, the skies darkened and a light rain fell – a sure sign as any that a drought is about to end.
But within a few minutes after kickoff the rain stopped and Shanghai Rugby drew first blood. The Shanghai Silver Dragons never really looked back on their way to a 30-point victory, defending their China Cup trophy and assuring the China Cup drought in southern China will last at least one more year.
Guangzhou relied on the talented right feet of its two Aussie backs, Brendan Chan and Steven Boardman, to kick for points and keep the Rams in the game. Each time the Rams tried to make it a game, Shanghai deftly spread the field, using its punishing ground game to find the try zone and keep the Rams at bay.
The home team Rams were able to contain Shanghai's strong attacking game in the final half of the final frame of the test, but it was too little too late as the 30-point differential attests.
The China Cup, awarded annually to the top social rugby club in China is contested by over 10 teams in far-flung locales across the country. Shanghai's Cup defense comes on the heels of a season that was fairly gilded outside of league play with the Silver Dragons winning the Xiamen 10s and placing in the prestigious Hong Kong 10s.
This year's final between the Guangzhou Rams and the Shanghai Silver Dragons was a re-match of the 2016 final and featured the champions from the North China division, Shanghai, and the champs from the South China division, Guangzhou.
After the game, both teams and their supporters gathered at The Brew JSL in Taojin for drinks, debauchery and the obligatory boat races. The social ended a successful season for Chinese rugby that will resume in September when league play recommences.
Both teams would like to thank James Elliot, a noted Hong Kong rugby official from the Valley Rugby Football Club for making the trek to the Guangzhou to assure the game was properly officiated.
And for those in Shanghai, remember that tickets are on sale NOW for this year’s Heineken Gala Rugby Dinner, which boasts keynote speakers Andrew Mehrtens, a former All Black, and Tom Smith, of the British and Irish Lions. There will also be presentations by former Springboks Bob Skinstad and John Allan, who are returning from last year’s gala (you can read interviews with those two here and here).
[Images via Sean Maj, Jeanri Ooustizek and Corne du Tuoit]