Article by Craig Brown
It was that time of year again and planning for the Hong Kong trip was in full swing. Problem one – the Australian Rugby Union introduced a new competition which brought forward all club rugby with a date clash so no Australian players where available. Good news did follow though – a crack coaching team was selected with Sean Lineen, the former Scotland 12 and current Scotland U20 coach keen to be a Penguin again following his last outing in 1990 and Craig Degoldi was good to go following his last Penguin playing appearance in 2009. On top of this local HK fitness hard man Roddy Mac was also included in the mix as the team’s trainer.
Thanks also to Simon Amor from England 7s who released 3 players to join the squad.
Net result a very competitive unit with size and power across the team.
All arrived safely into Hong Kong with no dramas to report and the team got down to the business of preparing for the Hong Kong tens. First up was a visit to the Hong Kong Football Club mini’s section prize giving. The Penguin players gave away the awards for the U7 to U12 teams for best player of the year and most improved.
The entire squad was assembled by late Sunday night with the first training run Monday morning. The team had 4 training runs over two days with the last combined with running a coaching session for the Sandy Bay minis. The Penguins have been coaching the Sandy Bay minis for a number of years now and it is always an enjoyable few hours.
Tournament day 1 duly arrived and to be honest the guys were ready to play footy – that is what they were in HK to do after all. Day one had an interesting mix of games. First up was a local composite side, the Hong Kong Lions made up of local promising players. Second was the Irish Vikings complete with King Penguin Andy Douglas in the line-up (Andy was making his 18thstraight appearance at the HK Tens – some effort that). Last game of the day was against Hong Kong Scottish Exiles which included a number of Scotland 7s players in their ranks.
All of the team had strong performances on day one with skipper Willie Walker putting in some honest work, the other Willy, Hafu in the thick of things, Afa having a number of battering ram runs, Callum strong going forward and in defence and Johan turning up everywhere around the park. Unfortunately Josh injured his knee, Shayne pulled his hammie and Willy Hafu broke his arm – not ideal for day one but the show went on!
Day two and a big quarter final dawned against Samurai. In a very close tie, we showed great defence throughout, with only a moment of brilliance from England Sevens star Matt Turner piercing it, but despite having the better of the game with the lion’s share of territory and possession we could not find the one opportunity in the 2nd half to breach the Samurai line. So that was that, we had lost 5-7 and went to the plate competition – very disappointing for all concerned.
The coaches did well to get the team back up for the semi-final against the Murray Mexted led IRANZ team. The game was close but the Penguins always had the edge and led from start to finish, this was probably the team's most complete performance. We knew we were up against a strong and well drilled IRANZ side who had already won the Manila Tens. The Penguins started well playing smart rugby by pinning IRANZ in their own half and forcing them to run it. The Penguins played well, with a team conviction of note which lead to a strong team performance - led by Rory Grice and Johan Bardoul up front. Willie Walker controlled the tempo of the game well and with X factor players Vara Duasokosoko and Afa Faatau always wanting the ball, this was a game (and win) to be very satisfied with.
The plate final against Borneo Eagles, from Sandakan, was going to be another close encounter. Again the boys showed tremendous heart and fought to the end. A couple of lapses in defence cost us, but Borneo were a quality outfit. The final score of 17-19 reflects how close the game was and it could have gone either way - the Penguins missed a conversion to draw the match - it was the last play of the 2nd half. A stunning try by Christian Lewis-Pratt put a seal on a memorable 2 days, and, rightly so this try was judge try of the tournament.
So, once the tournament was over the team moved to the second phase of the week with spectating at the Hong Kong 7s to look forward to as well helping at a charity function.
Late morning Friday and the team headed to the Jockey Club to help the Christina Nobel Charitable Foundation run the Ladies Long Lunch for 2014. This annual event attracts ladies from around the globe and raises significant sums of money for children in need in Mongolia and Vietnam. Seven of the players were nominated as models and put on a great show modelling Jack Wills gear. Our own Keith Wallace was the compere for the show and set the scene with a Maori love song! Some of the boys put on another great performances, and there was near riot conditions from the 260 plus ladies when the team had to leave for the next function. The net result however was a phenomenal HK$1.22m raised for the Charity, with the Penguins certainly doing their bit to help with the success.
Post the LLL the Penguins headed to the infamous Grove party located in Hong Kong's mid levels. What a party – many thanks to Thea and John for hosting another magnificent function. Everything was perfect from the weather, to the food, to the company and of course the Flamenco dancers! John awarded the John Grove Award for the Best and Fairest Player to Johan Bardoul who had a great tournament.
Those with brave hearts then took their place in the South Stand on Saturday, dressed entirely
inappropriately as fairies, and then the team took in the finals day on Sunday, witnessing some great rugby culminating in a master class in the final from DJ Forbes and Penguin Tim Mikkelson.
Another great Penguins Trip.
Back Row: Craig Brown (Manager), Callum Wilson (Loughborough University, England 7s), Andrew Kelly (Valley, Edinburgh, Scotland A), Rory Grice (Otorohanga, Waikato XVs & 7s, NZ U20, NZ 7s), Scott Scrafton (Grammar-Carlton, Auckland Dev, NZ U20), Afa Faatau (Oriental Rongotai, Wellington), Sam Aiono (Bombay, Counties-Manukau), Johan Bardoul (Mt Maunganui, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Chiefs Dev), Sam Franklin (Linwood, Auckland 7s, Canterbury 7s, Junior Warriors), Darrel Dyer (Ampthill, Northampton, England 7s training squad), Craig Degoldi (Coach – Auckland, NZ 7s), Sean Lineen (Coach – Boroughmuir, Scotland)
Front Row: Marc Daniel (Physio), Rod McIntosh (Trainer), Christian Lewis-Pratt (Leeds Carnegie, Northampton, Wales U16 & 18, England 7s), Varasiko Duisokosoko (Suburbs, Auckland 7s), Willie Walker (Captain - Nth Harbour, Highlanders, Worcester, NZ Maori), Willy Hafu (Belenense, Moseley, NZ U19, Tonga), Shayne Anderson (Hamilton Marist, Canterbury Dev, Crusaders), Josh Fawcett (Waikato University, Waikato age groups), Mark Odejobi (Esher, Wasps, England U16, 18, 20, 7s), Sue Olovsson (Masseur)
Inset: Keith Wallace (Manager)
Penguins 43 - 0 Hong Kong Lions
Penguins 19 - 0 Irish Vikings
Penguins 26 - 7 Hong Kong Scottish Exiles
Penguins 5 – 7 Samurai (ENG)
Plate Semi Final
Penguins 26 – 19 IRANZ (NZL)
Penguins 17 – 19 Borneo Eagles (MAS)