There was no rush on Monday morning. The team was heading off to Johor in Malaysia which was an hour away so no need to get up too early. We said goodbye to Sam, Marcus, Dan and Harry and welcomed Will, James, Jeff, Ray, Ropate and Kaide into the team. Our next mission was the HSBC COBRA 10s to be played in Kuala Lumpur the following weekend. Our next port of call was Johor Bahru, the capital of the southern state of Malaysia Johor.
John McKittrick, Hugh Campbell, Craig Brown and Sue Olovsson rolled over from the SCC tournament and were joined by physio Marc Daniel and Liaison Officer Malik to complete the Coaching/Management line up.
In terms of nationalities represented, the team consisted of 1 Australian, 4 Englishman, 1 Fijian and 8 New Zealanders.
Activities lined up for Johor included training runs as part of the preparation for the HSBC COBRA 10s, coaching local school boys, a warm up match against local teams and of course a chance to experience Malaysia and for most for the first time.
The Johor Rugby Union were our hosts and looked after us in a fantastic way. Local rugby player and coach Hazmin was assigned to look after us and he did a great job. Everything was organised and we had a great time (probably too short!).
The session coaching the local school boys was set for Tuesday morning and thanks to all who turned up it was a public holiday so some could not make it. 60 boys aged from 12 to 16 duly assemble and the Penguin team split them into 3 groups and kept them busy with a wide range of activities from passing drills, ruck and contact area drills, defensive alignments and position, a kicking competition and attacking the space with support scenarios.
Coaches McKittrick and Campbell moved the team from 7s play to 10s with a couple of sharp training runs. The focus from getting the ball to do the work in 7s to more of a confrontation approach was right for the HSBC COBRA 10s. Captain Kieron was also involved in setting the strategy and worked well with the coaches in setting the style of play and how this would be executed.
The practise match against the local teams unfortunately had to be cancelled due to lightning and heavy rain. The field went from relatively dry to a few inches of water in 10 minutes welcome to the rainy season! This was disappointing as both the HSBC Penguins and the opposition were looking forward to the match. It had been agreed that the 3 local teams would get 10 minutes each against the Penguins so as many players as possible could get a run. The rain forced a rethink of the schedule so a training run was scheduled for Wed morning before the team left Johor for Kuala Lumpur.
After training on Wednesday morning, all were checked out of the hotel and waiting for the bus at 11AM. On the bus and a 5 hour run to Kuala Lumpur depending on traffic. Lunch and plenty of water was loaded onto the bus so the team had a few quite hours ahead of them.
One highlight on the way back from training on Wednesday was the sighting of a Komodo Dragon in a drainage canal in Johor first time most had seen one in the flesh.
Into KL we arrived and we checked into the tournament hotel. Not too much spare time as we were expected at HSBC HQ for the Kuala Lumpur welcome function as hosted by CEO Mukhtar Hussain and organised by Jon Chivers. The HSBC function in KL is always eagerly anticipated for a number of reasons but most of all because of the great people we meet at the bank. HSBC are long time partners of the Penguins and we share similar outlooks and goals and have shared some memorable moments and achievements.
Thursday dawned hot and sunny and with 2 training runs planned the team had a lot of work to get through. The build-up continued from Johor with emphasis on team tactics, style of play and defensive line ups. Some of the payers struggled a little in the heat but they were slowly getting used to it.
By the time Saturday morning arrived the team was eager to get on the field and the draw handed us a very early start on the bus at 7AM. No problem, lets get going as we would be home early! We were in Pool B with a local team NS Wanderers, who we had played a number of times before and had some close matches, the debut team from Cambodia and also debuting, Auckland Fiji.
The first two matches went to plan with the superior fitness and skills of the HSBC Penguins allowing comfortable victories, although both opponents did have possession for periods of time and did make the Penguin defence work hard. The third game against Auckland Fiji was a closer affair with good defence from both sides. No rain on day one which was a pleasant occurrence!
All of the HSBC Penguin players put in a good days work with all starting at least one match and the rolling subs format allowing all to have good match time. Stand outs of day one were Will Whetton, who scored in each match and had a huge defensive outing against Auckland Fiji. Rory Grice and skipper Kieran Fonotia also chimed in with solid efforts and Jeff Williams always caused defences problems with his fierce pace.
The draw allowed the HSBC Penguins a slight sleep in as we were drawn in the last cup quarter final the last match before the Olympic style march past. During the march past the HSBC Penguin team threw in excess of 50 HSBC Penguin t-shirts, polo shirts, hats and badges into the public area it was great to see some of these being worn down town KL on Monday!
Key to the victory over our quarter final opponents, Casuarina Cougars, was the work rate of the big men. The Cougars defended well but being smaller up front lead to gaps eventually opening up which the Penguin exploited to secure a 27-7 victory.
Next up was a semi-final show down with our old friend COBRA. We have had many close tussles over the years and this was no different. About half way through the heavens opened and this changed the complexion of the match. COBRA were stretched to win their quarterfinal against Northlink from South Africa holding on 7-5. Jeff Williams opened the scoring for the Penguins with a try that highlighted his blistering pace. The Penguins kept on the pressure but right on the break a dropped ball saw COBRA score out wide to tie the scores 5 all the break. COBRA kicked a drop goal to open the scoring in the second spell but try as they may in the remaining 8 minutes the Penguins were unable to nab the necessary points to peg back The COBRA 8-5 advantage. Alex Gray crossed for a try with a couple of minutes remaining only to be pulled back by the referee who disallowed the try.
2013 was not to be our year but from a HSBC Penguin perspective it is always good to be in KL with our COBRA friends.
John and Hugh did a great job in getting the team sorted with help from Kieron and Alex. Thanks to our Liaison Officer Malik who was presented with his Penguin jersey, Sue for her tireless work, Marc for his ability to get the sore bits working again and our supporters including the Chivers family and the HSBC Penguin Coaching Academy coaches (Robbo, Lee birthday boy, Chook and Rob).
At the end of the day all HSBC Penguins had a great trip, we played some great rugby, everybody met new mate and we had some great experiences many thanks to COBRA for putting on another great show till next year!
Players: Kieron Fonotia (Captain - New Brighton, Tasman 7s & XVs, Crusaders Dev), Alex Gray (Vice Captain - London Irish, England U16, 18, 20, 7s), Nepia Fox-Matamua (Nth Harbour Marist, Auckland, Nth Harbour, Blues Dev), Nick Haining (Cottesloe, Western Force), Rory Grice (Otorohonga, Waikato age groups, 7s & XVs, NZ 7s, NZU20), Robert Malneek (Nelson, Tasman 7s & XVs, Crusaders Dev), Callum Wilson (Loughborough Students, England 7s), Mitchell Scott (Nelson, Tasman 7s & XVs, Crudaser Dev, NZ U20), Ray Niuia (Massey, North Harbour, Blues U18, NZ U17), Ropate Rinakama (Silverdale, North Harbour, Fiji U18), James Lightfoot-Brown (England U18, 7s), Jeff Williams (Varsity Old Boys, KZN Sharks U19, 21, England 7s), Will Whetton (Mid Northern, Northland NZ 7s trials), Kaide Whiting (Waimea OB, Tasman)
Coaches: John McKittrick (Nth Harbour 7s & B, USA 7s and Cook Is coach) and Hugh Campbell (Glasgow, Edinburgh & Scotland coach)
Manager: Craig Brown
Physio: Marc Daniel
Masseur: Sue Olovsson
Liaison Officer: Malik
HSBC Penguins 45 0 NS Wanderers (MAS)
HSBC Penguins 85 0 Cambodia (AUS)
HSBC Penguins 17 7 Auckland Fiji (NZL)
HSBC Penguins 27 7 Casuarina Cougars (AUS)
HSBC Penguins 5 8 COBRA (MAS)
Points Scored: Jeff Williams 5 tries and 2 conversions, James Lightfoot-Brown 3 tries and 10 conversions, Will Whetton 4 tries, Nick Haining 3 tries, Rory Grice 2 tries, 1 conversion, Alex Gray 2 tries, Ropate Rinakama 2 tries, Mitchell Scott 2 tries, Kaide Whiting 1 try and 3 conversions, Kieran Fonotia 1 try and 1 conversion, Nepia Fox-Matamua 1 try, Robbie Malneek 1 try, Ray Niuia 1 try, Callum Wilson 1 try
Points for 179, against 22