Article by Craig Brown and Graeme Inglis
It was about 6PM on 26th March 2015 and the Penguins had just lost the semi-final of the Hong Kong Tens to a good Tradition YCAC team. Captain Willie Walker said to team manager Brown, “that’s it for me, my playing days here are done, I can win this thing as a coach, if you will have me”.
About seven months later, the former Penguin player and captain Scott Waldrom got in touch to confirm he was keen to coach the Penguin team, having turned down the opportunity a couple of times in the previous three years. So that was that, the coaching unit was set. Both had played for the Penguin team and understood the Club and culture, both had played at the Hong Kong Tens, both had captained the Penguin team and both were already coaching. In Scott’s case, he is a community development coach for his Club Avalon in Wellington, and is also the successful coach of the Wellington 7s side.
Penguin CEO Craig Brown was appointed manager for his tenth successive Hong Kong Tens and multiple Penguin tourist Graeme Inglis (Jingles) was appointed co-manager. To complete the management team, long serving Penguin physio Marc Daniel travelled from Malaysia and team legend Sue Olovsson travelled from Melbourne to complete the medical team. Local boy Deano Herewini acted as the liaison manager and Charlie Mansfield carried on his role as Penguin Media Manager, sticking close to the team. Tan San Chuan (Chow) from Malaysia was along to observe the medical team.
Thanks to Steve Jackson, Mike Friday, Tony Hanks, NZ 7s, Dave Dillion, Dale MacLeod and Clayton Macmillan for their assistance to find players, which focused on the Southern Hemisphere. The result was a great team who respected and worked hard for each other, and understood that the team came first.
The end result was a second win at the Hong Kong Tens for the Penguin team – what a performance!!
The tour started in a similar fashion to previous Hong Kong campaigns, with the team arriving on different flights and starting the business of training and getting to know each other. They had five training runs from Sunday until Tuesday, with the coaches putting forward their requirements and philosophies in a well-structured way. The players responded well to the coaching and formed a close bond from the outset.
On Tuesday evening, after the last training session, the team ran a 90-minute coaching session for the youngsters of Sandy Bay Rugby Club near Aberdeen. Tour manager Craig Brown remarked that the Sandy Bay session was one of the best ever, with the Penguin coaches adapting their sessions to the various groups and making sure everyone was having loads of fun. A mention to manager Jingles as well, who ran the warm up and warm down for the 100-odd children – no mean feat capturing the attention of that many enthusiastic children!
The first day of the tournament eventually arrived and the team was ready to get on the field. The objective for day one was simple enough – 3 wins from 3 games and all players getting ample game time.
Prior to heading to the stadium there was the customary team meeting and jersey presentation. With only the management having prior knowledge, All Black legend and Penguin Honorary Vice President Sean Fitzpatrick duly arrived to share some insights with the team, and present the jerseys. The team appreciated Fitzy taking time out of his diary to join us and this certainly helped to motivate the squad. It was one of the highlights of the week.
All players started in the first two games and coaches Willie and Scott worked the bench well to keep the legs fresh. As expected, the games got harder as the day progressed, but the stand out facet of the Penguin game was the aggressive defence – both in the tackle and also at the break down. Lalakai Foketi was the first to touch down, the first of two tries in game one, but all players contributed greatly. The team bond was very strong, and the management picked up on this, and saw it as a strength going into day two.
Day one – mission accomplished, three matches, three wins and sixteen fit players.
In the evening, about forty-five people attended the Penguin Annual Hong Kong dinner with Club SVP Bill Calcraft updating all on the recent activities.
Day two arrived with the quarter-final kicking off at 13:30 against the Scottish team, Projecx Waterboys. The message from the coaches was keep the ball, be patient, and the opportunities will come. This certainly worked as the Penguin team had possession for the majority of the game and when the opposition did have the ball, the Penguin defence was relentless leading to turn overs and scoring opportunities. The Projecx Waterboys team made the Penguin team work for their victory with an organised defence in a competitive match. Final score 17 – 7.
Job done and now onto a repeat semi-final of last year against Tradition YCAC (please refer to coach Willie's comments in the opening paragraph!). The Penguin team were being led well by joint captains, Antonio and Kylem. Whilst no one was an absolute star, all players were playing their part and the synergy was working.
Next up was the semi-final and the team was determined to go one better than last year. Once again the aggressive defence at the tackle and break down, coupled with the patience to keep the ball and exploit the opportunities when they came paid handsome dividends. The Penguin team were just too big and strong for Tradition. With Matt and Brad leading the way in the trenches and Kylem and Shalom setting the backs away, the Penguin team pushed Tradition back on defence and again held the ball for long periods on attack. The patience paid off with the Penguin team scoring five tries through a range of attacking options including a lineout drive for a try by Matt, then Antonio using defence to force a turnover and picking the ball up to scamper over for a try near the corner. A great effort by Jackson to pressure the defence on a long kick through ended with him scoring a diving try from an error.
Turning defence into attack, the Penguin forwards counter-rucked 40m out, forcing a turnover allowing Kylem to let Solomon charge down the right wing to score the fourth try. The final try was a brilliant solo effort from Kylem. From a scrum on the Penguin 10m line, Kylem found the gap and beat the covering defence on a 60m arcing run to score in the corner. Final score 29 – 14.
Going back to the tournament objectives – 6 wins required, 5 down, one match to go against our regular rivals Samurai.
Prior to the final, the Penguin team chilled out in the players’ area on the hockey pitch, which was a new feature for the tournament, which worked well for the teams. Injuries meant the team was down to fourteen players but the determination and desire was still running at full capacity. Samurai had also lost two players and a great final loomed.
The final was more of the same for the Penguin team – aggressive defence with quick line speed and patience in attack. Samurai were equal to the task and an almighty arm wrestle ensued with most of the game being played between the respective 22’s. The Penguin team kept the ball for longer than Samurai, but the defence held on both sides. The Penguins had a couple of opportunities they could not convert in the first half and the Samurai got close to the Penguin line with one minute to go in regular time, but were bundled into touch 3m from the try line. The determination from the Penguins to defend their line was evident, with every man hauling back to nullify the threat and get the ball out over the touch line. Also the Penguin lineout was not functioning as well as it had been, and three over throws handed the Samurai possession to attack from.
So, at the end of twenty-four minutes of enthralling tens, the score remained 0–0 and so to extra time. The golden point rule applied, so the first to score any points would win. After five minutes of extra time the arm wrestle continued with neither team yielding, although there were some weary boys out on the pitch for both sides. The use of subs was key for the coaches to keep fresh legs on the park. It was likely a mistake or a piece of individual brilliance would break the deadlock.
The second period of extra time started with a further five minutes for either team to get a score. Penguins kicked off and put the ball down to the Samurai 22m line. After hitting the Penguin defensive wall, Samurai kicked down field and after a couple of Penguin passes, Shalom put through a low kick to earn a lineout about 12m from the Samurai line resulting in a Samurai throw in. Samurai overthrew the lineout and with both teams scrambling to retrieve the ball, Josh Tyrell leaped high and emerged with the ball with a clear run to the line. Obviously thinking of the kicker, Josh headed round under the post to the amusement of his team mates, who were shouting at him to put the ball down!!! Gareth did consider tackling him! Final score 5–0!!
What a draining final – nerves everywhere. Well done to Samurai for a fantastic match, yet again.
Co-captains Kylem and Antonio led from the front and inspired the rest of the team. Up front Ben and Antonio worked well in the jumping, Brad and Josh charged around the field hitting up well, tackling hard and clearing rucks double-time; Adrian and Gafa kept the first phase sorted as well as getting through a power of work in the tackles and Matt and Gareth roamed well to target the breakdown, pilfering the ball, and always setting the standard in the tackle.
Kylem, Shalom and Jordan worked well in the half-backs role and were always asking questions of defence or setting the backline away on dangerous runs. Kylem and Shalom stood out in the tackle, especially around the breakdown and also the sweeping role. Jackson, Danny, Chris and Lalakai worked well in the centres, occasionally on the wing, and got through a power of tackling and support work. Out wide Solomon hit his running lines well, made metres, covered well and did his bit in defence.
A huge vote of thanks to our sponsors Tsunami, Grove Industries and Synapse Physiotherapy.
Also, a big thank you to our host the Hong Kong Football Club. We hope we will be invited back. A special mention for Craig Wootten who was his energetic cheery self.
Post trophy presentation, the team had a quiet hour reflecting on the achievement of the past few days and enjoying each other’s company. It was great that Penguin Vice President Paul Bennett was at the HKFC and joined the team in celebrations in the shed. His short speech was most welcome, as was his contribution to the team refreshments.
Congratulations to Kylem O’Donnell who was named player of the tournament.
Also, congratulations to Matt Matich who won the John Grove Award for the best and fairest player. This is award is presented when the Penguins are in Hong Kong, in recognition of John’s contributions to the Club. Matt is the third loose forward in a row to win the John Grove Award following Kara Pryor in 2015 and Johan Bardoul in 2014.
Moving to the latter part of the week, the team contributed to the Ladies Long Lunch and helped raise HK$1.3 million for children in Mongolia and Vietnam in association with the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation. A great effort by the entire squad and our partners at CNCF. Of course a big thank you to all the ladies who turned out for a great afternoon.
Hong Kong 7s – the team spent a couple of days watching the world famous sevens tournament. Most had not been before and a couple had only played, but never watched as a spectator. A great time had by all and well done to Fiji for lifting the Cup.
Back Row: Willie Walker (Co-Coach – Highlanders, Worcester, NZ Maori), Marc Daniel (Physio), Tan San Chuan (Physio), Sue Olovsson (Masseur & Strapper - Sweden XVs), Graeme Inglis (Co-Manager – Watsonians, St Marys), Shalom Suniula (Belmont Shore, Junior Kiwis, USA 7s & XVs), Josh Tyrell (Hamilton Marist, Waikato 7s & XVs, Samoa U20), Jackson Garden-Bachop (Northern United, Wellington XVs & 7s, Hurricanes Dev, NZ schools & U20), Brad Tucker (Christchurch, Canterbury 7s), Antonio Kiri Kiri (Co-Captain - Old Boys Marist, Manawatu XVs & 7s, NZ 7s), Matt Polwart-Matich (Western Sharks, Auckland 7s & XVs, Blues Dev), Ben Nee-Nee (Pakuranga, Auckland, Blues Dev), Adrian Smith (Massey, North Harbour), Sean Brown (HKFC), Jordan Simpson-Hefft (Upper Hutt, Wellington XVs & 7s, NZ Dev 7s), Scott Waldrom (Co-Coach – Taranaki, Hurricanes, NZ 7s, All Blacks), Charlie Mansfield (Social Media Manager), Deano Herewini (Liaison Manager)
Front Row: Chris Kinloch (Ealing, Glasgow Warriors, Scotland 7s & U20), Gareth Bautz (Wests, Brumbies 7s), Kylem O’Donnell (Co-Captain - Melville, Taranaki, NZ 7s), Danny Kayes (Mt Manganui, Bay of Plenty Dev & 7s, NZ 7s trials), Gafa Su’a (Pukekohe, Counties-Manukau, Blues & Chiefs Dev, NZ Schools), Lalakai Fetoki (Rangataua, Bayonne, Bay of Penty, Rebels, Aus U20), Solomon Alaimolo (Otamatea, Canterbury age groups), Craig Brown (Co-Manager, University, Watsonians, Waikato, Anglo Scots, NZ Maori)
Penguins 55 – 5 CRFA Gladiators
Penguins 17 – 0 King's College at UQ
Penguins 26 – 19 UBB Gavekal
Penguins 17 – 7 Projecx Waterboys
Penguins 29 – 14 Tradition YCAC
Penguins 5 – 0 Samurai (as a result of sudden death points into second period of extra time)
Tries: 4 – Lalakai, Solomon & Kylem, 3 – Jordan, 2 – Jackson, Antonio & Ben, 1 – Shalom, Matt & Josh
Conversions: 5 – Kylem, 3 – Shalom, 2 – Jackson & Jordan
Points for 149, points against 45.
A video of each match can be found at www.hongkongtens.com/match.php?cid=1 – just select the relevant game and scroll down to Show Videos and Live Commentary.