BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — The Chiefs beat fellow New Zealand side the Crusaders 12-5 on Sunday to win the inaugural Brisbane Global Tens rugby tournament under difficult circumstances.
The emotional win for the Chiefs came only hours after the team learned of the death of former All Blacks forward Sione Lauaki. A 70-cap stalwart for the Chiefs in Super Rugby, Lauaki died Sunday at the age of 35.
The back-rower had been diagnosed with kidney and heart problems in 2012.
"We lost a brother today," outside back Shaun Stevenson said after the Chiefs clinched the Brisbane title.
Chiefs captain Liam Messam, a close friend of Lauaki, originally planned to fly back to New Zealand after the quarterfinals, but changed his mind and decided to stay and lead the team to victory.
"I tried to get on the first plane back with my other mate Jerome Kaino, but we know what Wax would've wanted," a teary Messam said, referring to Lauaki by his nickname. "He'd probably tell me to stop crying. The boys really wanted me to do it for him and I'll get back there tomorrow."
Earlier in the day, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said his side would dedicate the rest of the tournament to the memory of Lauaki.
"There's a number of guys who played a lot of footy with Wax," Rennie said "There's a lot of motivating factors. Not everyone knows Wax, but he played a lot of footy for the Chiefs and he's certainly highly respected among his mates."
The Chiefs beat South Africa's Bulls 26-7 in the semifinals after leading 21-0 at halftime, while the Crusaders defeated another New Zealand rival, the Wellington-based Hurricanes, 17-7.
All 10 Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby clubs took part in the Brisbane event, as well as four invitational sides — Toulon from France, the Bulls, Samoa and the Panasonic Wild Knights from Japan.
The last two of five Australian teams lost in the quarterfinals — the Queensland Reds 12-10 to the Chiefs and the Perth-based Western Force 17-12 to the Bulls.
The Wild Knights, led by former Australia head coach Robbie Deans, lost to New Zealand's Crusaders 12-7 in the quarterfinals and Toulon failed to win a match, scoring only one try in the tournament.
The tournament format featured two 10-minute halves, five-man scrums and eight substitutes with unlimited interchanges. The scoring team kicked off following a try and conversions had to be drop-kicked.