Singapore Arrival and Business as Usual
The Team was fully assembled Tuesday morning, 27 October, and set about preparing for the week. First up was the team introduction meeting, followed by a bus ride to Dempsey fields for the first training run. Coach O’Connor gently eased the squad through the warm-up to minimise any jet lag affects, and started the crucial job of introducing the defensive system that would be used during the week. At the team meeting it was agreed that defence wins these tournaments, so communication and an understanding of what all players are doing is key. The remaining training sessions concentrated on some first phase; building of the defensive strategy; an individual gym session, and one scratch game against Cottesloe from Perth, Western Australia.
31/10/14 - day one. 19:18 hours, game one, Palmyra from Perth, W.A. After meeting only 4 days earlier, the Team was ready to play by Friday! Coaches O’Connor and Hanks, and skipper Harry Bergelin, provided final instructions and inspiration, and we were off into the PIRFC’s 7thSCC 7s. In warm, humid, but dry conditions, the team got off to a wining start. A good performance, yet plenty of room for improvement! Palmyra did play proficiently at times during the game. They held on to the ball well, and fought back to a score of 12-10 at one stage. We must mention Jeff Williams and Sam Stanley, who played their first games after lengthy injury layoffs.
The draw meant a later kick-off for games two and three on Saturday, with a French double header on the cards: 14:20 against Grenoble University, and the French Development 7 at 18:40. The coaches rotated the team so all 12 players had a start after 2 games, with Jeff Williams taking over the captaincy from Harry.
The Grenoble men where big, but, to be honest, not the finest exponents of 7s rugby! Nevertheless, they knew how to play. Their direct style meant the Penguins had to be accurate in the tackle and make every hit count.
Winning two from two, the Penguins qualified for the last 16, as did our last opponents of the day, France Development. To secure a better draw for the knock out phase, we needed that first place position in Pool A. The match against France Development team had a lot riding on it for both sides. It was a close game. However, the Penguins ran out 14-7 winners in a match that featured great defence from both sides.
Penguin skipper, Harry Bergelin, comments: “It was great to play against some of the French 7s players and see what they had to offer. The match highlight was when, after the French had made a clear break and looked to be about to score under the posts to take the lead, a sniper had taken aim and shot down the Frenchman at the 22 metre line, Estaves was quick to dive on him and create a turn over.”
Coach O’Connor’s view: “The 14 -7 French Development win was a hard-fought, tactical game, marked by desperate defence on both sides. Ruaridh's side-line, try-saving tackle typified the Team's effort.”
So to the last 16! The first match, early on Sunday morning against East Arnhem from Australia’s Northern Territory, saw the Penguins get stuck into the first half with blistering pace, running in 33 unanswered points. After the break, the East Arnhem team put in their best performance of the weekend. Credit to them, they held onto the ball for long periods, tackled well, and competed at the breakdown more than during the first half. A good game to start the final day, which gave the Penguins momentum moving into day 3 and our quarter final showdown.
The quarter final was against Sunnybank from Brisbane, who were our semi-final opponents 12 months earlier. The 41-0 victory saw some of our best teamwork, and execution, of the weekend. Aggressive defence, great tackle turnover and decision-making, and electric attack, turned this game into a one-sided affair.
Captain Bergelin’s views: “Undoubtedly the best we had played all weekend, our use of the split kick off paid dividends. I don’t think Sunnybank had a touch of the ball before we had scored two tries. We kept up a press defence and showed the class of the players in the team. A goal for our competition was to be strong defenders, and keeping Sunnybank to a nil score was a great achievement for the team.”
A keenly anticipated semi-final match against the Borneo Eagles, from Sandakan, Malaysia, followed. Borneo, on paper, had the strongest team at the competition (with a number of NZ 7s representatives), but the Penguins were keen to show they could match them. A great start saw the Penguins score first. However, the continuation of the press defence led to mistakes and turnovers. Unlucky not to score again, the team held out to Borneo until the final stages of the first half, when Borneo scored on the last play. Just after the restart Borneo scored, and kept the Penguins on the back foot. Finally getting the ball, the Penguins showed great patience in the build-up to score, and level, the match.
Unfortunately Borneo, who had been competing well at the breakdown all tournament, continued to do so; taking control of possession, field position, and scoring again. Now fighting for the ball to play with, the Penguins had a last chance at making it to the final. Borneo’s kick-off! Their “10 foot tall” forward latched on to their kick-off ball and dashed to the try line, making them the deserved winners on the day. Apart from the 2 defensive errors that led to Borneo’s tries, the match was evenly contested, and resulted in a game probably worthy of a final.
Unlike last year, the weather for the duration of the Singapore week, was kind to most, with minimal rain affecting the tournament. However, this did lead to some very warm temperatures.
Thanks to Kenny Moyes, Iain McLeod, and Brad Ridge for hosting the Team and supporters at the Polo Club for another successful Tight 5 Dinner, on Wednesday night (28thOctober). The team was grateful to use the facilities of the Club, including the pool. It was great to catch up with many friends from Singapore, and Penguin supporters who rolled in during the course of the evening.
Thursday’s highlight included a visit to the Plessis house for dinner. A number of Penguin friends also attended. Will and Hugo were particularly impressed to have a bedroom full of international rugby players, all competing in a mixture of X-Box, table tennis, and other games! Thanks to Brendan and Alexy for being fantastic hosts, again.
Thanks also to Bill Calcraft for hosting some of the management and supporters on the odd occasion. Room 101 is now a firm favourite on the Penguin calendar!
Back Row: Sue Olovsson (Masseur) , Tony Hanks (coach for Waikato, Wasps, Sale, Blues), Sam Blanchet (Exeter, England 7s), Alex Gibbon (Southern Districts, NSW Country, Australia 7s), Alex Northam (Manly, Australia U20), Aderito Esteves (Direito, Portugal XVs & 7s), Ruaridh McConnochie (Hartpury College, England 7s), Laussi Taliauli (GPS, Australia Schools & 7s), Jenny Graham (Physio), Michael O’Connor (coach to Australia 7s), Craig Brown (Manager)
Front Row: Muzzy (Liaison Officer), Harry Bergelin (Manly, Australia 7s - Captain), Johnny Gbenda-Charles (Marist St Pats, Hong Kong XVs & 7s), Allan Fa'alava'au (Endeavour Hills, Australia Schools, U20 & 7s), Sam Stanley (Saracens, England 7s), Paul Asquith (Southern Districts, Combined States, Australia 7s), Jeff Williams (Varsity Old Boys, England 7s - Vice Captain)
Penguins 22 - 10 Palmyra (Aus)
Penguins 35 - 10 Grenoble University (FRA)
Penguins 14 - 7 France Development
Penguins 38 - 7 East Arnhem (AUS)
Penguins 41 - 0 Sunnybank (AUS)
Penguins 12 – 24 Borneo Eagles (MAS)