Fiji, Kiwi and HK stars power UBB Gavekal to HKFC Tens glory
New Zealand’s Nick Smith converts a late drop-goal for a 10-7 victory in the final over last year’s winners Penguin International
New Zealander Nick Smith converted a last-gasp drop kick as UBB Gavekal pipped 2016 champions Penguin International 10-7 to win the 32nd GFI HKFC 10s at Hong Kong Football Club on Thursday.
UBB captain Aorangi Stokes was named Player of the Tournament, while Australia Sevens teenager Josh Coward – representing the Classic Wallabies – was the top try scorer with six.
UBB were seeded a lowly 11th after finishing in the bottom eight of the 16-team tournament in their first two appearances, but this year’s squad were boosted late on by four Fiji Sevens players – playmaker Lemeki Tulele and fellow backs Josua Vici, Samu Bale and Glen Cakautini.
The squad also contained eight Hong Kong-based players, while Stokes and Smith came from New Zealand.
“I’m stoked as! It’s unreal,” said Stokes, playing in the GFI HKFC 10s for the first time, like most of his teammates. “The boys showed they had a massive ticker. They just put everything out there as you saw. We’re all spent.
“We’ve got to praise the boys for doing what they did and our little ‘man of the moment’ for doing what he done,” the flanker added, pointing to Smith.
Smith added: “I actually got the call to kick from the sideline from the coaches, so you have to listen to the big dogs! I looked at the time and saw about 30 seconds left so I thought I’d drop it into the pocket – I just hit it and hoped.
“Our players have come from all over and we haven’t just come here to participate. We came here to win and we came here to make a statement, and I think we have.”
Both Kiwis smiled broadly when asked about the contribution of the four Fiji Sevens players.
“They were our superstars,” Smith said. “We knew we had to feed them the ball and give them the space, and let them do what they do best. We saw some great examples down the sideline of their speed. You just have to give it to them and let them run, and that’s how Fiji do it.”
Vici opened the scoring for UBB out wide early in the second half, with Smith adding an impressive conversion. Penguins flanker Hapakuki Moala-Liava’a levelled from close range under the post and extra-time was just seconds away when Smith fired the winning kick.
Kir Club Pyrenees, captained by France legend Damien Traille, won the second-tier Plate, Mourant Ozannes Samurai International won the Bowl, while Devil’s Advocate Silver Dragons (SRFC and SUS) lifted the Shield to become the first side from mainland China to win silverware at the GFI HKFC 10s.
Traille and Pyrenees lifted the Plate after a 21-5 win over Australian side King’s College at UQ – sponsored by Strategic Equity Alliance, the tournament’s youngest squad.
“I’m very happy,” said Traille, who helped France reach two World Cup semi-finals and the final against hosts New Zealand in 2011.
“I only finished playing professionally recently and winning the Plate with this group is great, especially as I come from the Pyrenees area. I’ve played in a World Cup final but all finals are important and winning this final with a group of friends was also great, especially as I didn’t play the last couple of games with them. My friends put all their heart into the final.”
Samurai, Cup runners-up in 2010, 2013 and 2016, were in unfamiliar territory in the third-tier Bowl, but finished with a flourish as they beat Irish Vikings 25-7 in the final.
Captain Luke Crocker, a former Wales Sevens forward, was delighted with the team’s winning run on day two after the second seeds suffered two pool-stage defeats on Wednesday.
“We wanted the Cup after just missing out last year and the effort everyone put in,” said Crocker, representing Samurai for the third straight year in Hong Kong.
“Day one didn’t quite go right, but we had to pick ourselves up, come back stronger and better, and take out the teams that were left to take a trophy home for Samurai.”
China was the winner in the Shield, as the Silver Dragons – representing Shanghai RFC and the Shanghai University of Sport – won 24-7 against CRFA Gladiators, representing the Chinese Rugby Football Association.
Mark Ralph, manager of the Silver Dragons, was a proud man as both a stalwart of the Shanghai RFC and having worked hard to promote the game on the mainland.
“It’s just fantastic for rugby in China,” said Ralph, who first competed at the GFI HKFC 10s in 1996 and turned 50 on April 1.
“It was a wonderful match with both teams scoring tries and it was great that we could both lift the trophy at the end and share the adulation at the end. It was just fantastic.”