Vaiala, Linwood Marist Sevens champions for 2020
BBE Vaiala and Supakako Linwood are the men's and women's champions of the 2020 Vailima Marist International Sevens tournament.
Vaiala beat Apia Maroons 12-5 in the men's final on Saturday afternoon at ACP Marist Stadium in Lotopa, after Linwood defeated Aleipata 22-0 to win the women's division.
The women from Christchurch lost to Aleipata in pool play on Day One, so were extra motivated to get the result and it showed.
Aleipata had a good amount of early possession, and kept the ball close to the ruck with their carries.
They weren't gaining much ground though, and after a knock-on Linwood sprung into action.
Alafou Fatu made a nice break before getting felled by a high tackle, and tournament MVP Kaitlin Bates went in for a try under the posts after Linwood took a quick tap.
Aleipata couldn't help but give up possession as the half wore on, knocking on a few times in the atrocious conditions.
They also picked up a yellow card for a tackle after the whistle, and Linwood took advantage when Manusina Easter Savelio burst through to score just before halftime.
The second half continued in a similar vein until the Aleipata players looked to tire.
Kaitlin Bates got her second try of the final thanks to her express pace, and Linwood added another try through Helen Vaotuua before fulltime.
Coach Sam Gibbens said his team's loss to the locals on Day One probably helped them in the long run.
"Just to get that focus again, I think most of the girls thought they would come out and have an easy game," he said.
"We went back to the motel and had a good talk about where we were at."
Gibbens said they focussed on fixing their defence up the middle, seeing that as a key factor in Friday's loss.
He said the win capped a good trip overall for the team, with donations of gear made to new Savai'i club and fellow first-time Marist participants Teine ole A'ava and Avele College.
"That's the aim of these girls coming from Australia and New Zealand, to come back and give back to the local girls here, and help them with their development."
Aleipata were also competing in their first Marist Sevens, and team manager Lote Sefo said the team are happy with their overall result as beaten finalists.
She said they have no one to blame for the loss but themselves.
"I think we failed to follow the gameplan."
Sefo thanked everyone who supported Aleipata throughout the tournament, especially family and friends of the team.
Former Tepatasi players living overseas donated the jerseys for both Aleipata, and the fourth-placed men's side Tepatasi to wear at the tournament
"Special thanks to my brother [former Manu 7s player Tom Iosefo] for the warmup shirts."
Vaiala's 12-5 win over Apia in the men's final came the hard way, a fitting end to a tournament in which they lost on Day One before beating favourites AYI Fiji in extra time in the semifinal.
The Maroons started strongly, with Silao Nonu breaking free and almost scoring before he was forced out about five metres from the tryline.
Blackie captain Patrick Fa'apale opted to kick clear, but got himself yellow-carded for a shoulder charge on the countering Mark Kolio.
The extra man helped Apia open the scoring, as Tuiai Taulia dove in to make it 5-0 over halfway through the first period.
Vaiala had a chance to respond just before halftime, but were forced out after the hooter.
Apia conceded a couple of penalties for late and high tackles, allowing Vaiala to advance up the field.
Ueta Avaotuna, one of the players of the tournament, created an opening for them before the ball found David Junior Tavita to give Vaiala a 7-5 lead.
Their defence took over, as a breakdown penalty for holding on gave Blackie more attacking possession.
Apia's Samu Iosua received the game's second yellow card for a high tackle in his own 22, and tournament MVP Malu Falaniko crashed over from close range for the inevitable game-winning try.
The hooter came just after kickoff, but another breakdown penalty left Apia with no chance to come back.
Maroons coach Auimatagi Sapani Pomare said his team are disappointed, but they have to accept the loss.
"We just have to move forward and prepare for the next tournament on the island," he said.
Apia were able to grind out a number of close, low-scoring wins throughout the rest of the tournament, and Auimatagi said this was no accident.
"We worked really hard on our defence, because I believed if we had a good and solid defence, we could get the win."
He thought that defence fell off a little in the second half of the final, where Vaiala scored two unaswered tries.
Victorious captain Patrick Fa'apale was happy with the tournament win.
"We give thanks to God, for strength and for making us champions this year," he said.
Fa'apale said it was hard work playing as the weather conditions and pitch deteriorated on Day Two, and his team had to dig deep to overcome AYI Fiji in the semifinal having lost to them in pool play on Friday.
Vaiala picked up $20,000 tala in prize money for the win.
Men's Tanoa Final
Moata'a 5-19 Satalo
Men's Plate Final
Tama Uli Salelologa 7-12 Marist St Josephs
Men's 3rd place Final
AYI Fiji 17-0 Tepatasi
Women's Cup Final
Aleipata 0-22 Linwood
Men's Cup Final
Vaiala 12-5 Apia
3rd: AYI Fiji
6th: Tama Uli
7th equal: Lauli’i Lions and Lupesiliva
11th equal: Vaimoso and Linwood
15th equal: Talavalu and SCOPA
Lester Sefo, Johnny Samuelu, Melani Matavao, Patrick Fa'apale (c), Malu Falaniko, Ueta Avaotuna (all Vaiala), Ionatana Tino, Sile Alivale Williams (both Apia), Gasologa Pelenato (Tama Uli Salelologa), Moomoo Falaniko (Marist), Theodore McFarland (Moamoa), Liahona Vaegaau (Moata'a), , Bright Tapeneko (Lauli'i)
AYI Fiji players were not considered for selection.
MVP: Malu Falaniko (Vaiala)
3rd equal: Apia Maroons and A’ana Blues
5th: Avele College
6th: Marist Angels
7th equal: Taga and Teine ole A’ava
MVP: Kaitlin Bates (Linwood)