Speranza22 Dubai Rugby 7s 2017 International Open Men Team
2017 saw S22 look to challenge ourselves even further as we entered the prestigious Dubai 7s International Invitational tournament for the first time in addition to maintaining our presence in the International Open. The Invitational tournament is one down from the World Series and features many of the international development sides including England Royals, South Africa Development and France 7s Development along with international sides looking to break onto the World Series including Zambia 7s, Germany 7s and Ireland 7s. In addition some of the very best international invitational 7s teams like Samurai 7s and Free 7s are regular participants in the tournament.
It was always going to be a tough challenge against such high class opposition but with three of the S22 originals in the Costa brothers (Rodrigo, Ignacio and Nico) putting together a quality side hopes were high for our first foray into this Elite competition.
The Group stages saw S22 drawn in what was a strong pool with Zambia 7s, England Royal s and Free 7s. It was vital that a marker was laid down early on as the lads looked to gel together in their first outing as a team. This they dually did with a strong performance in the opening game beating Zambia 7s comfortably 40-7. The next challenge was the reigning champions England Royals. This would be a key indicator of where S22 were in terms of being able to compete at this level. With a big crowd of both S22 supporters and England supporters gathered on pitch 4 there was expectation from both sets of fans. From the first kick off S22 were exceptional and played outstanding 7s, keeping the ball and wearing the England team down with power, pace and some sublime handling racing into a commanding 24-0 half time lead. The second half started in much the same way with S22 again winning key restarts and starving the opposition of ball. The game ended with an emphatic 39-0 will for S22 and suddenly there was a buzz around the 7s stadium as people started to sit up and take notice of the new boys on the block!
The final game of day 1 was the last pool game against the talented French side Free 7s. Full of confidence from the England game the S22 lads started in much the same way as they finished against the Royals. It was a hard physical game but the boys kept their composure and finished with a strong 26-0 win to top the group with 3 from 3 and real confidence going into the knock out stages on day 2.
The Cup Quarter Final on Saturday saw us drawn against Kukri Cobras who had come second in their group. By now S22 had the upper hand and were full of confidence as the results of day 1 had filtered through to the other teams. The boys shook off the stiffness and knocks from day 1 racing to a 5 try to 1 win (29-7) to set up a huge semifinal against the famous Samurai 7s team who had won this tournament many times in the past. However the S22 lads were full of confidence and knew that if the kept playing the way they had they would be able to reach the final. The game was a hard test but S22 never looked in trouble galloping to a 24-0 lead. Samauri, as you would expect from such a quality team, came back into it scoring two late tries in the last few minutes of the game but the 24-14 score line was never in doubt and S22 had booked themselves a final on pitch 1 for the first time of asking. A hugely talented South Africa Development side was now all that stood between S22 and the dream of winning the cup at the first time of asking.
The final kicked off at 5.25 p.m. on pitch 1 in front of a huge Dubai 7s crowed. The lads were relaxed and enjoying themselves and showed no signs of nerves as they ran out full of confidence. There was a huge amount of support for S22 amongst the 30,000 plus crowd as our story and journey had started to become known by many of the impartial crowd. The fact that Marco’s Dad was there and able to run out with the team made the moment even more special. The game kicked off and the South African Development side threw everything they had at S22 who absorbed the pressure with some huge defensive plays proving that this team not only has exceptional flair in attack but can also be dogged and physical in defence. A very tight first half ended 0-0 and the boys knew that if they could get more ball they would be able to put the young Blitz Bok under pressure. And so that transpired, S22 went up another gear playing some sublime rugby to score 3 tries to go out to a 17-0 lead with only a minute left on the clock. Celebrations were already starting amongst the S22 supporters as SA Development ran in a consolation try in the last play of the game but no one cared, the boys had done it, Dubai 7s International Invitational Champions at the first time of asking!
The most memorable part was Orlando, Marcos dad, wearing the number 22 jersey being lifted on to the shoulders of the players as he looked to the sky and shouted “for you Marco”. The emotion and euphoria was off the scale as everyone in the stadium cheered and applauded an amazing result. The S22 supporters were amazing as were the International Open Team who were there cheering on the lads, they were as much a part of this journey and can be rightly proud of the win.
To be able to call ourselves Dubai 7s International Invitational champions 2017 is unbelievable. The team was exceptional both on and off the pitch. They were an absolute credit to S22, Marco and his family and will always go down in history as the first S22 team to lift the trophy. Amazing!!!
Speranza 22 International Invitational Team 2017
1. Ignacio Costa
2. Sam Livingston
3. Gareth Williams-Spiers
4. Nico Costa
5. Brody Lam
6. Max Asera
7. Jarel Hemehema
8. Mark Telea
9. Phil Falamoe
10. Amanaki Nicole*
11. Renata Roberts-Tenana
12. Luke Masirewa*
Team Manager: Rory Greene
Team Coach: Rodrigo Costa
* A huge congratulations to Luke and Amanaki who both went on to be capped by NZ 7s in the World Series.
DUBAI 7S INTERNATIONAL INVITATIONAL 2017 RESULTS