Samoans make all the right moves

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 April, 2007, 12:00am

The new champions are Samoa, but they could easily have been joined on the podium by a series of sumo wrestlers, a horde of runaway brides and thousands of other partying rugby fans who make the Hong Kong Sevens a global one of a kind.

There was not a spare seat in the stadium yesterday. Despite massive beer consumption, police reported a well-behaved crowd with no arrests, few pitch invasions (bar a pair of penguins and The Flash) and, for the first time in memory, not one streaker. Last year's shower of beer jugs that met England's victory was also absent, and St John Ambulance reported only minor alcohol-related injuries. The good behaviour was aided by a big boost in security and under-18s being banned from the South Stand.

Last night's hard-fought final between Samoa and Fiji topped a great weekend for sport in the city as Wong Kam-po won Hong Kong a cycling world championship in the men's 15km scratch race and champion stayer Vengeance of Rain won the US$5 million Dubai Sheema Classic.

Hong Kong Stadium was filled with rousing versions of Sweet Caroline as the curtain came down on a weekend no one wanted to end. Crowd favourites Fiji were led into the final by inspirational player-coach Waisale Serevi, but not even 'The Great One' could deny the Samoans, who introduced a new people's champion in the form of points-scoring machine Mikaele Pesamino.

'What a great event, with fantastic atmosphere and such a high standard of rugby,' said Allan Payne, executive director of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union. 'Pesamino is a superstar and it's terrific to see Samoa win for the first time since 1993. We are delighted at the record crowds. The stadium was over- capacity. On Friday night we had 32,000, double what we would normally have.'

John Simmons, from Sussex, England, and his friends have been to six Sevens and say it just keeps getting better. 'They said it would die after the handover, but look at this now. It's 10 years and it's more popular than ever,' the 43-year-old said. 'You couldn't do this anywhere else - it just wouldn't work.'