The Kiama 7s is a feast of running Rugby on the beautiful coastal fields at the Kiama Showgrounds. This year two teams of Tonga youngsters travelled to compete as the Ha’ateiho Spartans and Tupou College Old Boys. With precision, pace, position and passion the boys won over new fans with the Spartans grabbing 3rd spot in front of the TC Old Boys taking out 4th after a tight Plate final.
New to the tournament, the “Old-Boys” began with the 2nd game of the day against the much fancied Randwick B team. While their opportunities took out pressed uniforms (footy jerseys) the boys were thrown their blue guernseys from the gym bag.
Already jittery from only a couple of days training in Tonga and a light run since arriving 2 days earlier, it wasn’t helping to look over to find the competition sheltered with a good fan base, strapping girls, physios. Geez they even had physio tables, medical staff and a tent. Meanwhile, our proxy nurse (mum pressed into service) had to run to the local chemist to see if we can buy some tape.
The opposition, on paper and in real life, looked very scarey, are we crazy for coming? They are built as bricks, seemed quick on their feet and oozed confidence. The 4:00 am breakfast didn’t seem to be sitting so well right about then. Those ads of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter having Wheat Bix for Breakfast better have some truth in it.
We hunt down a tap to fill our water bottles, and seem to be the only team with such a need. We wonder where everyone else fills their bottles?
Breathing deep, the boys step onto the field to limber up the only way we know: grab the footy, run up and down the field bumping into each other here and there. Pace, Precision, Passion (we’re still working on the Position.)
The Kiama 7s tournament format for 2012 separates 48 registered teams into 16 groups of 3 except for the seeded teams, Manly A and Spartans (only 2 teams in their group.) The winners in each group joins the “Round of 16” playing for the Cup (1st and 2nd in the tournament) and Plate (3rd and 4th in the tournament) whilst the 2nd placed teams play-off for the bowl.
Teams must win their two group matches to qualify for competing for the Cup. The Old Boys were grouped against Randwick B and Molong? (Magpies) Justifiably, the Spartans only had 1 country team (Newcastle & Hunter) to play in their Group and started towards midday.
Group B – Game 2 8:42 am Chittick Oval vs Randwick B
Score: 14 – 0 : Try Scorers: Siaosi ‘Osamu, Mano Loto’aahea
Eventually, the jitters just had to give way to getting on with the game and at 8:42 the boys took the stage against Randwick’s “B” team. Things didn’t start off too well, at all with a sad sequence of errors putting immense pressure on nerves. The kick off wasn’t taken and allowed to go out near our line, mis-timing on the line-out throw in and the boys are scrambling in defence for the majority of the 1st half with little respite.
On the sidelines, this was heart wrenching stuff, we didn’t come all the way to Australia, then drive to Kiama to go home early. We’re all here to take the Cup home.
The Boys kept their nerves, with-stood a mountain of attack, and grabbed a small opportunity in the 1st half to go into the second leading 7-0. Confidence seemed to be seeping into the team and the scrambling defence didn’t seem to be under the same pressure in the 2nd half with the boys running in another try to more comfortably finish the game ahead.
Time to breath easier, return to our dressing room (the shade in he car park) and debrief.
Group B Game 15 11:18 Chittick Oval vs Molong Magpies
Score: We won on the field, Molong won everywhere else.
The Molong Magpies are a true Rugby Club, and there’s more to be said about that. The boys ran in 8 tries to finish top of their pool and guaranteed we were in the run for the Cup.
The Molong boys were quick to come up after the game to congratulate our boys, and invite us to drinks. The drinking had started earlier than the games, and continued well into the night.
There’s a longer break before the next match so the boys rest a little before heading off to the adjoining park for stretches before their next game. The beauty of the environment is mostly lost in keeping a tight focus on the knock-out competition that is now the “Round of 16”
Round of 16 – 1:06 Chittick Oval vs Warringah
Score: 12 – 10 : Try scorers Tevita Halaifonua, Mano Loto’aahea
Warringah is a strong Sydney Club and they had the unfortunate misadventure of being knocked out of the 2011 tournament by Tonga’s team the Spartans. They had good cause to give no quarter.
Warringah’s aggression is a definite a step up from even the tough match against the Randwick B team. Playing a tight smart game of 7s they pushed the boys to the end.
Precision. The game came down to the final minutes with Warringah on top 10 to 5 and just before the whistle Mano takes the ball on half-way and makes a clean break and the chase is on as he touches down just before the whistle blows.
An appeal is made that either the try is disqualified, or the conversion is not allowed. The referee allows the conversion attempt, success, and after consultation with the scorers tent, the game is awarded to our boys.
A sigh of relief, we live for another match.
It’s lunch, even though we’re sick of our box of oranges, we dig into it again. Friends of the team bring some lunch, but there’s 15 of us if you include the coaches, so there’s not much to go around.
Quarterfinals – 3:06 pm Chittick Oval vs Penrith A
Score: 10 ~ 7 : Try scorers Simana Halaifonua, ‘Ata’ata Langilangi
We were worried about the Penrith A team, as both their teams had strong Pacific members. Both teams put on ferocious defence that had the ball spinning from side to side on the field with few results on the score line.
Penrith has a great attacking combination and the boys were scrambling back and forth. The tight game against Gordon and it’s lessons on the importance of attacking defence in 7s is significant in their standing firm and pushing forward in defence to take the win.
Semi-finals – 4:38 pm Chittick Oval vs Kiama
Score: 7 ~ 28
Kiama put together a wonderful team for this year’s series and they were impressive with capital Ps. Precision, Pace, and Position were augmented with immense Power and Grace. It would have been wonderful to watch the game, except that it was our team that was getting pummelled around the field.
Precision. In defence, Kiama held out the boys for the 1st half and closed gaps in defence faster than seen any other time during the tournament. Tackles were rarely taken alone, most being gang tackles by immensely athletic players. Our players began making mistakes in attack due to the tight precision of Kiama’s defensive pattern which further increased the pressure on our defence.
In attack Kiama were not only relentless but used Precision and Pace to push our defence backwards, while launching ferocious pace that often left our defence pedestrian. Kiama passing us by wasn’t random luck, they are a great team.
The Kiama boys showed an awesome set of Rugby lessons we hope to dish out ourselves one day.
Having come into the tournament as 2011 finalists, the Spartans team had a match against Newcastle & Hunter as a warm up into the final round of 16. The information here is sparse, find more information at the Ha’ateiho Spartans facebook page.
Group M Game 19 12:06 Showground Oval
The game was a try fest, being at the other ground we only heard the summaries broadcast on the grounds and the Spartans were clearly going for a half-century.
Round of 16 2:06 Chittick Oval vs Norths
The Spartans went in as favourites, and deservedly so, they played a flowing and aggressive style of Rugby that the crowd enjoyed and was a mirror of success for them.
Norths were not easy push overs, and the result was unresolved until the end.
Quarterfinals 3:40 pm Chittick Oval vs Manly B
The defining nature of the Spartans win over a very good Manly B side was their commitment to defence.
There were some memorable moments during the game, especially when the Spartans had a slim lead and a breakaway that should have resulted in a try, resulted in a try on the 10 metre line. Which the referee eventually called a knock on.
It is a credit to the aggressive defence that kept the Spartans on top of the game, as again it came to the wire.
Semi-finals 4:55 pm vs Parramatta
Sorry, I missed it.
Plate finals – 6:15 pm Chittick Oval
Spartans 17 vs Tupou College Old Boys 12
The consolation price goes to Tupou College Ex-Students who fought hard to take the lead until a wonderful try by Spartans in the dieing moments of the finals secured a win for Spartans.
Congratulations to the Spartan team for taking home the Kiama 7s Plate prize.
We’ll meet again in 2013, hopefully in the finals of the Queenbyean 7s and then here again.
Collection of my photos available on facebook