Metro put on late, late show
Last-gasp try crushes Aliens as healthy lead slips away in final five minutes
New Zealand Metro ended Aliens' bid for a hat-trick of titles at the GFI Hong Kong Tens with a last-gasp 17-14 victory in the final last night.
Flying winger David Smith was Metro's man of the moment, scoring two tries and setting up Peter Leilua for a late winner in a thrilling climax to the two-day tournament at Hong Kong Football Club.
Metro were trailing 14-10 in the last minute of the all-Kiwi final when Smith burst down the right wing and cut inside. He was stopped short of the line, but Metro retained possession and Leilua crossed near the posts for the title-clinching score, with Donovan Nepia adding the conversion.
"We left it pretty late," admitted Metro manager Barry Gallagher. "We made some simple mistakes earlier in the game - dropping the ball and getting penalised around the fringes, but we always felt we had the ability to win it."
The game hinged on a crucial disallowed try for Aliens as the two-time defending champions were leading 14-5 with five minutes remaining.
Daniel Kirkpatrick touched down under the posts following a length-of-the-field breakaway, but Aliens were called back 70 metres and penalised with a free-kick for having 11 men on the field. It turned out they had sent on a replacement for an injured player who remained on the pitch.
From the ensuing tap penalty, Smith jinked through for his second try of the final, reducing the arrears to 14-10 and setting up Metro's grandstand finish.
"There was a bit of confusion when Aliens had 11 guys on the pitch," said Gallagher, "If that score had counted it would have been game over, but our boys showed character and determination to come back."
Smith, born in Samoa but now living in New Zealand, is expected to be called up to New Zealand's sevens squad by coach Gordon Tietjens once his residency permit is granted later this year.
"Gordon Tietjens has got an eye on him," confirmed Gallagher. "He's a very talented young player - he's great on his feet, he can step either way and he's very hard to pin down in the tackle."
Metro claimed their second Tens title, having previously won in 2003. Victory was also sweet revenge for them after they lost a classic semi-final in the last minute to Aliens a year ago.
"We came very close last year and were extremely disappointed to lose, so this certainly makes up for it," added Gallagher.
Aliens coach Willie Los'e was gracious in defeat. "It's disappointing, but I'm so proud of the guys, they used up everything in the tank," he said.
Aliens were handicapped by the loss of their captain, Tu Umaga-Marshall, who was called into the New Zealand squad for the Hong Kong Sevens following an injury to Craig Hudson.
"Gordon Tietjens came to us and asked us to leave Tu out if we got to the final," confirmed Los'e. "It was a minor disruption but we weren't going to stand in the way, we're just delighted that he's going to wear the black jersey in the Hong Kong Stadium."
Earlier Aliens had ended the brilliant run of Hill and Associates Hong Kong Barbarians with a tense 7-0 semi-final win. Simon Munroe broke away for the decisive try in the second half after the Barbarians had failed to turn constant pressure into points.
The Barbarians - comprising overseas professionals and senior players from several of Hong Kong's First Division clubs - had not conceded a point in the tournament until that moment.
"I'm very proud of the boys," said Barbarians coach Semi Iafeta. "We couldn't quite finish it off in the end but it was a great experience for everybody and hopefully one we can take into next year's competition."
PricewaterhouseCoopers International Panthers - with World Cup-winning Wallabies Joe Roff, Toutai Kefu and Matt Cockbain in their line-up - won the Plate with a 21-12 win over WDA Cardiff University.
The Asian Cavaliers won the Bowl final, beating Hong Kong's Alvarez and Marsal DeA Tigers 21-7. Japanese club Acorns carried off the Shield with a 17-7 success over China Agricultural University.
Cup quarter-finals: Aliens 41 Tamariva 7; HK Barbarians 21 Cardiff University 0; NZ Legends 33 International Panthers 7; NZ Metro 42 Irish Vikings 7.
Cup semi-finals: Aliens 7 HK Barbarians 0; NZ Legends 3 NZ Metro 12.
Cup final: Aliens 14 NZ Metro 17.
Plate semi-finals: Tamariva 5 Cardiff University 24; International Panthers 12 Irish Vikings 7.
Plate final: Cardiff University 12 International Panthers 21.
Bowl quarter-finals: Acorns 19 Asian Cavaliers 29; Laxton PLA 31 CBRE Club10; Overseas Old Boys 17 Black Watch 12; CAU 5 DeA Tigers 7.
Bowl semi-finals: Asian Cavaliers 26 Laxton PLA 19; Overseas Old Boys 5 DeA Tigers 21.
Bowl final: Asian Cavaliers 21 DeA Tigers 7.
Shield semi-finals: Acorns 62 CBRE Club 0; Black Watch 14 CAU 33.
Shield final: Acorns 17 CAU 7.