They left as sevens players and returned as champions. Samoa Finance Apia Maroons (S.F.A.M.) were among a number of local teams who went over to the American Samoa Rugby Union Flag Day 2016 International Sevens tournament last month tasked with bringing home the trophy.
They did not disappoint.
Aside from the winning the trophy and bragging rights, S.F.A.M. also walked away with the USD$10,000 prize money.
According to the assistant coach of S.F.A.M, Auimatagi Sapani Pomare, the tournament wasn’t an easy one.
“It was a really tough competition,” he said during an interview with Samoa Observer.
“Every team gave their all to win and the skills displayed by all teams were on a different level.”
Auimatagi continued to explain how the tournament was laid out.
“The tournament that happened in Tutuila is the only international 7’s tournament held by them,” he said.
“Samoa sent a few teams to compete; the teams that left were Samoa Finance Apia Maroons, Vaiala, Lauli’i, Sasaai, Vaiee, Sanapu.
“The tournament was really good; we were champions in the pool games which was great for us.”
According to Auimatagi, all the teams they met following the pool matches were local teams from here which provided a real challenge.
“We then went against Sasa’ai in the quarterfinals, they were good, but we beat them 28 – 0,” he said.
“And then we made it to the Semifinals against Lauli’i, This was the hardest game of the tournament and they gave us a really hard time.
“Even after the full time whistle, we had to go into extra time because we still each had 5 points and it was so hard to get that last score.
“But we managed to do so with a penalty kick winning the game 8-5 clearing our path to the finals; It’s funny because both teams that made it to the finals are from here; we took on Vaiala who were finalists the year before and we won.”
With S.F.A.M. currently taking part in the Samoa Independence International Sevens (SII 7’s) tournament, they must leave all achievements behind them and focus on getting another trophy for the team.
“Winning that tournament gave our team a huge boost and the head coach and I are very proud of the boys for what they achieved,” Auimatagi said.
“But we have to now put that win aside, and focus on the SII 7’s that is currently going on.
“The level of the SII 7’s is a little higher than the tournament we went to in Tutuila mainly because we now have teams from Fiji, New Zealand and Australia.
“We were finalists in last year’s SII 7’s with the Fiji team but sadly we lost; so this year we will try to get to the final again and win.”
According to Auimatagi, preparation is key if they are to win more trophies in the near future.
“We prepared really well leading up to the tournament which is what we think is key to having a good team,” he said.
“A team that is well prepared and well trained will go a long way.”