All Blacks legend Tana Umaga is determined to complete some “unfinished business” at this year’s GFI HKFC Tens.
He tasted victory two years ago coaching BGC Dragons but they lost to Penguins in the quarters last year, and that rankles.
The path to redemption was on course on Wednesday with the all-star BGC Dragons setting up a Cup quarter-final with fourth seeds Borneo Eagles on Thursday, after beating newcomers JML IRANZ 17-7 to top pool C.
Fijian Apisalome Waqatabu scored two tries in the decisive group match between the third and sixth seeds at Hong Kong Football Club.
Umaga's second-string team, the Carinat Dragons, also topped their group after a surprise 12-12 draw with second seeds Samurai in the final pool B match, with the seventh seeds topping the standings after scoring more tries during the day.
"We finished first so that's what we were looking for. Actually, both our sides finished top, so we're very happy, as that was our aim," said Umaga, whose BGC Dragons earlier beat Newedge and Lloyd McDermott Warriors.
"I'm proud of our players. I can't say enough about them, about how much grit they showed. They're fired up … if it means a little bit, they play a bit harder."
Top seeds Penguins earlier topped pool A after a feisty 26-7 win against East Hotel HK Scottish Exiles and the reigning champions will face Samurai in the quarter-finals in a grudge match of last year's finalists.
Fijian scrum half Varasiko Duisokosoko and powerful winger Afa Va'atau each scored two tries for the defending champions, who ended up with three players getting yellow cards.
Penguins skipper Willie Walker said they needed a good workout after beating Hong Kong Lions (43-0) and Irish Vikings (19-0). "To finish with a good, tough game is probably what we needed," Walker said.
Samurai have twice reached the final and Terry Sands, the team's founder, is desperate for his team to win the Cup for the first time at their eighth attempt.
"We're obviously looking forward to it - a repeat of last year's final," Sands said. "Let's hope that we can reverse it and hope that we can put one over them."
Fifth seeds Tradition YCAC beat Borneo Eagles17-0 in the final pool D match and will face IRANZ, while Carinat Dragons will face HK Scottish Exiles in the other Cup quarter-final.
Ninth seeds Tag Heuer Eyewear Pyrenees are favourites for the Bowl, contested by the bottom eight sides.