Surprising results, field brawls, dethroned defending champs but a well-entertained crowd. Samoa Independence International Sevens (SII 7’s) 2016 had it all. Hats off to Su’a Stephen Schuster and his organizing committee for a very successful, action-packed sevens tournament.
And at the end of the day, the Cup went to the well-deserving Betham Brother Enterprise (B.B.E.) Vaiala team who were finalists in Sevens other tournaments this year (Tutuila Flag Day Sevens and Marist Sevens) but couldn't grasp that first prize.
But where to start?
From the entertaining women’s games proving that rugby is no longer just a man’s sport; to previous year’s Men’s Cup finalists (Tabadamu and Apia Maroons) dropping to the Plate Finals; and then the dethroning of the defending champions in the women’s division OZBOKETTES from Australia to Fiji’s Nadi Blazers in an intense finals encounter.
Everyone was on the edge of their seats throughout the afternoon and evening.
There were a few minor brawls here and there which saw coaches desperately trying to keep reserve players from running onto the field, but perhaps that was to be expected from an adrenaline-filled atmosphere.
But the spotlight must come back to the new SII 7’s Kings, B.B.E Vaiala Blackie; the team who made it to all the finals this year, but seemed destined to be also-rans.
Losing the Marist Cup earlier this year to Auckland Marist St. Joseph 33-0 and then coming in second to Apia Maroons at the Tutuila Flag Day tournament was enough to leave any team losing their self belief.
But not this valiant Vaiala team.
Even when a good chunk of the SII 7’s Cup finals saw Lauli’i leading after scoring the first two tries, that did not shake Vaiala’s resolve.
Mustering up all the frustration from previous tournaments, Vaiala did what seemed to be ‘the impossible’ at the time and made a strong come-back.
Tired of coming in second all the time; they defended to the best of their ability in the last minutes of the game after equaling Lauli’I’s three tries, and sealed their first place position with a thrilling 19-17 win.
No one was happier than the coach of B.B.E. Vaiala, Stephen Betham.
“I think it’s just a great honour and a privilege for the boys,” he said during an interview with Samoa Observer.
“We have played three Sevens tournaments this year and we lost both finals in Tutuila and Marist sevens so it feels good to win this one.
“I give credit to the boys; they were training hard all week and they proved that they really wanted it and they pulled through.
“I want to say thank you to everyone for their support and our sponsors B.B.E., Budget Rentals, our village Vaiala and everyone else who worked behind the scenes to make this possible.
“I would also like to thank all the teams out here; without all of them this wouldn’t be possible.
“Thank you also to the Samoa Independence team who put up this tournament.
“Lastly we would like to thank all the other teams; Lauli’i played well, even the teams from Fiji; anyone could have won it but I guess the ball bounced our way today and we took it.”
The victorious coach agreed with all other coaches who claimed this tournament to have been a massive improvement from last year.
“The skill level in this year’s tournament is great,” he said.
“It’s good to have the Fijian team here with us and also a team from Australia. They have really tested our skills.
“I think it has been a high quality tournament right from Friday. If you see all the results, you will notice that majority of the wins are by five points or less so credit to all the teams who prepared well and showed up.”
Mr. Betham, who is a former Manu Samoa coach, urges everyone to get behind Damian McGrath and the boys in blue who are preparing for Monaco’s Repechage.
“Get behind all our national teams,” he said.
“Especially our Manu Sevens who are going to try qualify for the Olympics. Let’s get behind them and support them all the way.”
• Cup – B.B.E. Vaiala
• Plate – Fiji’s Global Tabadamu
• Bowl – Sasaai
• Shield – Aleipata
• Fiji’s Nadi Blazers
(School’s Under 18 Champions)
• Saint Josephs College