Keeping violence out of school rugby, a platform for future stars

Alexander Rheeney

It is tragic that violence has reared its ugly head at a school rugby sevens tournament that was set to unveil Samoa’s future stars.

The Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) said the Schools National Sevens Rugby Championship – which was moved to the big island of Savai’i last Friday as part of efforts to give the game a nationwide footprint – was slated to be a spectacle and opportune exposure for Samoa’s future up-and-coming rugby stars.

Instead the tournament, which started well in Upolu, degenerated into a nightmare for the organisers. The SRU said supporters of Mataaevave College invaded the field and attacked members of the Leifiifi College U19 Boys team, resulting in a melee and injuries to the players.

“The scuffle boiled over with the intrusion of hooligan supporters from Mataaevave, who ran onto the field and caused a commotion. Police quickly apprehended and arrested the lead hooligan, (who was) wielding an umbrella while the rest were ushered away by tournament officials,” the SRU statement read.

The organising committee met and discussed the incident, according to the SRU, and agreed to disqualify Mataaevave College for the remainder of the tournament as well as slap them with an indefinite ban from future tournaments. The clash also led to the Leifiifi College U19 boys team pulling out of the tournament, due to injuries sustained by three players during the clash.

But the brawl didn’t stop the tournament – the show had to go on. Leulumoega Fou College dominating pool A and Leulumoega Fou College defeated Safata College 36-0 to retain their National 7s Crown making it back to back titles. 

The U19 Boys MVP award went to Des Sepulona captain of Leulumoega Fou College. Avele College won over Palauli i Sisifo College in the finals for pool B U19 Girls with scores of 19-7 and landed the U19 Girls MVP award To Faalua Lefulefu of Avele College. Leifiifi College took the U17 boys title over Aleipata College with 12-7 points - the U17 Boys MVP award went to Gerard Faalupega of Leifiifi College.

Nevertheless, it is unacceptable that violence in Samoa’s premier school competition has tarnished the image of the game, especially in a time of uncertainty with world rugby superpowers considering a “World League”, which could see a 12 nation competition introduced that would exclude Pacific Island nations.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, who launched a scathing attack on World Rugby over the proposal in a recent interview with the Savali newspaper, would be shaking his head in disappointment at the news of the violence-marred school rugby match in Savai’i. And rightly so as the chairman of the SRU.

We applaud the decision by the tournament’s organising committee to disqualify Mataaevave College for the remainder of the tournament, as well as slap them with an indefinite ban from future tournaments. The penalties imposed by the organising committee should serve as a deterrence and warning to all teams, players and their supporters that any form of violence on and off the field will not be tolerated.

Top marks to the Police for their quick action, which led to the apprehending of a main suspect behind the violent attack. Justice should now take its course, though we note that were others involved, who according to the SRU were ushered away by tournament officials. Perhaps the Police should expand their investigations to identify the others who were involved. 

The violence in Savai’i last Friday should also compel leaders on the Big Island to personally drive home the message to the community that violence anywhere – on a sporting field or at home – is not acceptable. 

The decision by the Samoa Government to host a number of Pacific Games events at Savai’i was an expression of confidence in the island and its residents. The onus is on the island’s residents to compliment that recognition by embracing good sportsmanship and condemning any form of sporting violence. 

The violence last Friday during the Schools National Sevens Rugby Championship wasn’t a good start as part of the island’s preparations for the Pacific Games, which is scheduled to kick off July 7. 

And with the Manu Samoa recently notching their second consecutive finals appearance in the 2018/2019 HSBC World Rugby Rugby Sevens Series in Las Vegas and Vancouver, there is a buzz about Samoan rugby on the global stage and an air of optimism has descended on this island paradise – following disappointing results in recent years. Let Samoan rugby lovers enjoy the moment and make it the perfect buildup to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

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