Marist Sevens draw creates dramatic Day One matchups
Yesterday’s draw for the Vailima Marist International Sevens Tournament has thrown up some intriguing clashes for the pool stage on Day One this Friday.
According to tournament director Fata Brian Kaio, all the favourites for the women’s tournament have been drawn into Pool A.
As defending champions from the inaugural tournament last year, Auckland Samoa were already locked into that Pool as the top seed.
Yesterday’s draw at the Marist St Joseph’s clubhouse in Lotopa saw them joined by fellow New Zealand sides Christchurch Women’s Rugby and Te Tai Tokerau, as well as Samoan national champions Apia Maroons.
Fata said perhaps things could have been more spread out but that’s the nature of a random draw.
He said the defending champions Auckland are bringing a young side this year, but are still the team to beat.
“They have the experience from playing at Marist last year.”
Manusina captain Sui Pauaraisa starred for Auckland last time, but has come with her own team from Christchurch for this year.
“She’s a speedster, and quite a leader on the field,” Fata said.
He said Te Tai Tokerau are an unknown coming into the tournament, and definitely a dark horse to take the title.
“What we know is they have Black Ferns, and you can’t fault that, when you have that quality of players.”
Fata said local champions Apia Maroons cannot be discounted either.
He said they’ve been training well, and have played together for a while.
“In terms of cohesiveness, coordination and understanding each other’s game plan, Apia Maroons has that.”
Marist Invitation, Aana Blues and Taga from Savaii are the three teams drawn into Pool Two.
“This is the opportunity for local teams to make it up to the finals,” said Fata.
On the men’s side, a similar clustering of talent in Pool A occurred with defending champions Auckland Marist being drawn with Tabadamu of Fiji and Iva White Lions from Savaii.
Fata said this made for a very interesting pool.
“You heard the reaction from the audience today [when Tabadamu was drawn with Auckland].”
He said Auckland Marist remained the team to beat as defending champion for the last three years, but as champions of the Fiji Marist Sevens, Tabadamu would push them.
“They’re a star-studded team with a lot of Fijian national players.”
Iva come in having recently beaten Samoan national champions Frankie Tama Uli Salelologa in the second leg of the Savaii Sevens.
Fata said Marist were glad to have Savaii rugby on the up.
“A lot of these teams have been successful in Upolu, because of players from Savaii.
“Now all these players are going back to their teams, to their villages to develop the rugby there.”
In Pool C, Moata’a were drawn with traditional rivals Vaiala.
Fata said Moata’a are a powerhouse of sevens, second only to Marist St Joseph’s in tournament wins over the 31 years it has been hosted.
“Unfortunately last year they didn’t make it to the quarterfinals, and I’m sure they wanna come back strong this year to redeem their position.
“Vaiala are always a strong team, full of Manu Samoa players.”
They will be without Manu Samoa 7s players Siaosi Asofolau, Johnny Samuelu, Alatasi Tupou and Joe Perez, with coach Sir Gordon Tietjens not releasing them and five others for the Vailima Marist International Sevens Tournament.
Playmaker Murphy Paulo will be available however, along with 14 other members of the Manu squad.
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