Speranza 22 Victorious in Bournemouth
On the back of a great first outing in the UK and Ireland at Kinsale 7s at the beginning of May the S22 team’s next challenge was the infamous Bournemouth 7s Festival. And what a challenge it will be. Arguably the largest and most prestigious 7s festival in the UK outside of the World Series Bournemouth has gained legendary status and S22 were determined to put in a good performance on our first visit to the top tier competition; The Crabbies National Elite Cup.
With only 6 of the team that reached the Elite final in Kinsale available we were going to test S22s strength in depth as the lads travelled from all over the country to gathered in Bournemouth on Friday 25th May. After a good night’s sleep for 13 of the 14 squad and management (our RAF flyer getting delayed on a training flight and arriving at 0300 Saturday morning) the team headed off to the Festival grounds to start day one; the group stages.
S22 had been drawn in Group A alongside Fijian Knights, Viper 10 Lions and Apache 7s. The first game on pitch 1 saw us play against a big and physical Fijian Knights team but the lads showed great composure to manage the game well and run out comfortable 21-0 winners.
Next up was the dangerous looking Viper 10 Lions who had shown in their first game to have plenty of speed and talent. The S22 lads were outstanding, starving Viper of possession for much of the game and putting a huge marker down for the rest of the tournament by winning 34 – 5. Suddenly people were starting to take notice of the new kids on the block and there was a quiet buzz around the ground as people started approaching the team to find out a bit more about us!
The final game of Day 1 was against the legendary Apache 7s. We knew they would be hard, skilful team but a win would ensure us topping the group at the end of day 1. The boys started the game exactly where they left off from game 2. Controlling possession well and using our mixture of size and pace exceptional to run out 35-5 winners and top a strong Group A having scored 90 points for and only 10 against!
The team retired back to Bournemouth city centre and our accommodation, leaving behind the awesome atmosphere as the festival kicked into life, to rest up for day 2 and the Quarter Finals!
The knockout stages saw S22 face the hugely talented side and 2017 champions Seventise in the Quarter Finals. However, the lads picked up day 2 where they had left Day 1 with and emphatic 24 – 7 win to set up a huge Semi-Final against Apache 7s again. The lads now started to believe that the tournament was there for the taking although the commentators labelling S22 as the team to beat and favourites was a little unnerving for the management!
The Semi-Final was a huge test of character for the lads against Apache 7s 1st VII . After taking a slender lead the game was finely poised as both sides showed huge defence against great attacking threats. However, S22 held a 15-12 lead after Apache scored a second try to start jangling the nerves of the S22 followers. However, a huge restart saw S22 retain the ball and the boys were able to play the game out to set up a huge Final for the first time of asking.
And so the dream was almost a reality as we were to battle for top honours against an impressive British Army side who were currently lying in 2nd place in the Super 7s Series. We knew if we managed to retain the ball and starve their Fijian strike runners we were in with a good chance of winning the game. The final would be a lung busting 10 minutes each way but the lads were ready and there was a quiet confidence around the team. Again the lads went out to a good lead at 15- 5 before the talented Army side started to come back to make it 15-10. S22 then scored an excellent try to put some daylight between them and the lads in red at 22-10 before the Army scored their 3rd to start making it a little more interesting at 22-15. We always knew that the Army would never give up and so it proved as with only a few minute left on the clock they scored again to make it 22-20. The lads defence had been outstanding all weekend and they now needed to dig deep more than any other time. With the Army pressing hard the time ticked down and it was fitting that with a huge turnover ball the skipper Josh Hall managed to kick the ball into touch to confirm Speranza22 as the Bournemouth 7s National Crabbie’s Elite Cup champions at the first time of asking.
Celebrations ensued and hospitality grateful received from the Bournemouth 7s owner Roger Woodall. The lads had well and truly put S22 on the UK map. The Bournemouth was unbelievable and lived up to all of the hype both on and off the pitch and we can’t wait until next year to hopefully defend our title!!!
Speranza 22 Bournemouth 7s Festival – National Elite Cup Team 2018
1. Shaun McCartney
2. Josh Hall (c)
3. Johnny Matthews
4. Charles Morgan (vc)
5. Lloyd Owen
6. Cam Roberts
7. Rob Stevenson
8. Stevie Hihetah
9. Michael Adlard
10. Ben Magee
11. Elliot Morgan
12. Matt Pollen
Team Manager: Rory Greene
Assistant Manager: Blake Morgan