The HSBC Penguins arrived into Singapore for the 4th consecutive year to have a crack at winning the coveted Ablitt Cup for a second time. The selection for this tournament included 5 players from England, 5 from New Zealand and 2 from Australia. John McKittrick from New Zealand was joined by Hugh Campbell from Scotland to form an experienced coaching team and the line-up was complete for an exciting week ahead. Team manager Craig Brown confirmed the team had an exciting look for a number of players who has international 7s experience.
The team prepared well with 4 training runs (one cancelled due to a very heavy downpour complete with lightning) and had plenty of down time to rest and have a look at some of the sites of Singapore.
The team attended two functions during the week so thanks to Kenny Moyes, Brad Ridge and Iain McLeod who hosted the Tight 5 Penguin Dinner and Brendan and Alexy Plessis who hosted the mascot dinner. Both functions were well organised, a privilege to attend and enjoyed by all.
Rumour has it Bill Calcraft’s hotel room was visited on more than one occasion and allegedly something happened to the contents of his mini bar – this is still a mystery!
After the days of travel and preparation the team was looking forward to getting onto the field. The team was drawn in pool E which meant our games would be at the back of the grouping so last game Friday night and last game of round 2 and last game Saturday night. The SCC 7s format means 1 game Friday, 2 games Saturday and 4 games Sunday.
Although confidant that we had a very useful squad there is always a bit of uncertainty about how they will gel once they hit the field in competition. Having the opportunity to see the opposition play first was an advantage and both coaches agreed the French would provide the biggest challenge in our pool. As it transpired the group came together well, developing the game strategy and producing some quality sevens play. As a result we progressed comfortably as group winners. Highlights include a great 2nd half display to beat Palmyra after being tied 7 all at half time (result 31-7) and Marcus Waton’s hat trick against the French U20 side.
The last 16 match up was against a powerful Western Province Institute team who were a typically physical, skilful South African side but no match for a Penguins squad playing great 7’s rugby in both attack and defence. Credit to all Penguin players who used the width, move the ball from contact well, always looked to attack space and defended superbly. Final score was 40-14.
The quarter-final transpired to be our toughest game on route to the final. Northland were a very well organised and committed team who just never gave up. There were a few questionable refereeing decisions which both teams could have grounds to dispute however we were extremely fortunate to benefit from a couple of touch judge interventions in the dying seconds of the match which allowed us to progress to the final. The Penguins held a slender 14-12 lead at half time only for Northland to score from the restart and lad 17-14 for the majority of the second half. With time almost up, the fast improving England 7s squad member Alex Gray touched down and with the conversion the Penguins progressed to their 4th consecutive SCC 7s semi-final. Final score 21-17. Unfortunately for the Penguins they lost their standout captain Dan Caprice to a broken ankle midway through the second spell and his tournament was over. Thanks to all the medical staff who helped out to get Dan sorted.
The semi-final opponents where Sunnybank from Brisbane (who had eliminated the defending champions Daveta in the ¼ final). Sunnybank was a well drilled, competitive and competent team but the Penguin defensive pressure produced a 17-7 lead at half time. In the second half it was more of the same from the Penguins and superior speed and the great defence got the Penguins into their 2nd SCC 7s final with a polished 7s performance 36-14.
So to the final - The AP Dragons had cruised through to the tournament with some outstanding displays of powerful athletic rugby and the final proved to be no exception. With the scores locked at 5 all after the first five minutes the Penguins looked to be in the game but the brilliance of the Dragons proved too much in the end and by depriving the Penguins of possession they ran out easy winners 43-5. In what is very hard tournament over the three days the Penguins could not repeat their winning feat of 2010 but overall a very satisfying week. All were disappointed to lose the final but the AP Dragons were a class outfit and deserved their victory.
We all felt for Dan following his ankle break but he was in very good hands and had the required surgery with 7 hours and should be back up running within 3 months.
A great week and thanks to John and Hugh for getting the team to fire on all cylinders, Dan and Sam who lead the side, Muzzy our Liaison Officer who was fantastic, Sue who kept everyone feeling fresh, Joy who fixed the sore bits and of course to the Clubs members and supports who are always welcome and a key ingredient to the success of every tour.
Thanks to Marc, Andy and the team at the Singapore Cricket Club for putting on another great show – the rain goods did not appear as much as last year which was pleasing. Now to next year!
Back row: Craig Brown (Manager), John McKittrick (Coach, North Harbour 7s & B, USA 7s and Cook Is coach), Callum Wilson (Loughborough Students, England 7s), Harry Bergelin (Manly, Aus 7s trails), Rory Grice (Otorohonga, Waikato age groups, 7s & XVs, NZ 7s, NZU20), Alex Gray (London Irish, England U16, 18, 20, 7s), Nick Haining (Cottesloe, Western Force), Robert Malneek (Nelson, Tasman 7s & XVs, Crusaders Dev), Kieron Fonotia (New Brighton, Tasman 7s & XVs, Crusaders Dev), Hugh Campbell (Glasgow, Edinburgh & Scotland coach), David Townsend (Senior Vice President PIRFC)
Front row: Muzzy (SCC Liaison Officer), Mitchell Scott (Nelson, Tasman 7s & XVs, Crusader Dev, NZ U20), Daniel Caprice – Captain (Saracens, London Welsh, Biarritz, Northland, Eng 7s), Nepia Fox-Matamua (Nth Harbour Marist, Auckland, Nth Harbour, Blues Dev), Marcus Watson (London Irish, England U16, 18,20, 7s), Sam Edgerley – Vice Captain (London Irish, Eng U16, 18, 20, 7s), Sue Olovsson (Masseur)
Absent: Joy Walter (Physio)
HSBC Penguins 31 – 7 Palmyra (AUS)
HSBC Penguins 40 – 5 East Amhen (AUS)
HSBC Penguins 36 – 5 France U20
HSBC Penguins 40 – 14 Western Province Institute (RSA)
HSBC Penguins 21 – 17 Northland (NZL)
HSBC Penguins 36 – 14 Sunnybank (AUS)
HSBC Penguins 5 – 43 Asia Pacific Dragons
Points: Swart 6 tries, Bryson 2 tries, Bergelin 2 tries, Karawana 2 tries, Hohneck 1 try, Aporo 1 try, Safania 1 try, Rei 1 try and 6 conversions
Total 92, against 9 tries and 4 conversions for 53 points