Chester 7’s was the 5th and final tournament of the 2017/2018 season for the team as we looked to finish on a high after an impressive debut season on the UK circuit. 2 Dubai title’s to go along with the illustrious Bournemouth 7’s victory in May and other impressive performances in Kinsale and at the Summer Social gave the boys a confidence and togetherness of a team who had been playing together for years. On the contrary, the team was much changed throughout the summer and again we welcomed 6 debutants to the squad. Brandon Bellamin, Guy Van den Dries, Liam Isaacs, Nik Maxwell, Sam Hutchinson and JH Johnson, all are associated with the team through friends who have represented the side, and they added their name to the Speranza 22 family.
We entered into a gruelling 5 match round-robin, with as little as 30 minutes between some matches, with the top two teams facing off in the final. The format change was due to a couple of late pull-outs so credit to Chester for ensuring a quality tournament went ahead. The other sides in the tournament were, Powerbombs, Red Panda, Lomai, The South and the Fijian Knights only two of whom any S22 side have faced before.
First up were Powerbombs who posed a serious threat, especially in the first half, but inspired by coach and managers for the day Callie Mckenzie and Shaun McCartney the boys proved too much and powered through to a 24-5 victory.
Next up were a strong Red Panda side who had been touted as the side to beat heading into the tournament, and despite a last gasp effort by Brandon Bellamin to tie the game up, the conversion agonisingly hit the post and Red Panda won 17-15. There were definite positives to take form the game and we were disappointed not to at least come away with a draw, Sam Hutchinson particularly impressed playing 14 minutes at prop and bagging two tries. Due to the nature of the tournament format, all was not lost and we knew if we could win our remaining fixtures we would still have a great chance of making the final.
With only a 30 minute turn around it was important to forget about the previous loss and get back on the horse. The boys regathered themselves and put in a solid display against a good Lomai side who possessed some seriously dangerous runners and big hitter in defence. The boys ran out 24-14 winners. It looked to be a similar story in the next fixture against The South, racing into a comfortable lead only, as is ever the case in sevens, for the tables to turn and two late scores made the scoreline look less than comfortable. We managed to hold on for a 19-15 win.
The last game in the group was all important, with Red Panda already guaranteeing themselves a spot in the final, a loss to the Fijian Knights would mean The South could jump to second on point’s difference and we’d be sent packing. Fortunately, the boys put in their best display of the tournament and one of the best of the summer as they ran out 40-10 winners playing some excellent rugby keeping the ball and being patient.
The final saw a Red Panda rematch and an equally close and gripping match. Both sides played some brilliant rugby and scored some great try’s but it wasn't meant to be for S22 this year and a final play which saw us just step out of bounds as we charged up the field, handed the victory to Red Panda 24-21. Congratulations to them they won 6 from 6 on the day and deserved their victory.
We finished the tournament with just 10 players due to injury and everyone can be extremely proud of how well we did. The boys were amazing on and off the pitch, especially the new boys who represented the S22 family brilliantly and no doubt will be back again.
Speranza 22 Chester Elite Team 2018
Guy Van den Dries