March 21st 2013
Australian winger Richard Hooper scores last-minute try set up by England Sevens star James Lightfoot-Brown to secure dramatic 21-14 Cup final win over Samurai.
HSBC Penguins finally won the GFI HKFC Tens at the seventh attempt after beating ULR Samurai International 21-14 in a fiercely fought Cup final at Hong Kong Football Club. Australian winger Richard Hooper outsprinted the Samurai defence to touch down a last-minute grubber kick by England Sevens scrumhalf James Lightfoot-Brown, who had sprinted over 50 metres along the right touchline after making a break from a scrum near his own 22.
The two teams had been locked at 14-14 at half-time after Penguins scored through Australian flanker Dylan Sigg and former Hong Kong scrumhalf Johnny Gbenda-Charles, set up by Sigg. Samurai drew level each time through breakaway tries, first by Paula Tikomainaivalu and then through scrumhalf Kelemedi Bola. The top-seeded BGC APB All Stars – earlier knocked out by Penguins in the Cup quarter-finals – won the Plate after crushing fifth seeds Hill and Associates Scottish Barbarians, whose side featured six Scotland Sevens internationals.
Lloyd McDermott Warriors of Australia won the Bowl, while an Irish Vikings side featuring England Sevens duo Dan Bibby and Ollie Marchon won the Shield. The Cup final was a clash of two famous invitational teams both seeking to win the title for the first time in their seventh appearance, but it was the second-seeded Penguins who were left celebrating after a thrilling end-to-end contest clinched by Hooper’s dramatic try, with only 23 seconds left on the clock.
“I’m buggered … I’m absolutely blowing … I can’t stop smiling. James is a classy player, so I knew he’d get the ball to me somehow and it couldn’t have worked out better. It was a last-ditch effort, but we got there in the end,” said the 22-year-old Hooper, who just before his winning try had made a last-ditch tackle to prevent Samurai scoring by the corner flag. “Everyone’s put in so much, so to be part of this victory means a lot. We’ve bonded quickly and the team has gone from strength to strength. It’s a great club to be a part of. It means a lot to me, but I know it means a lot to them.”
Lightfoot-Brown, who kicked 10 conversions over the two days, had a standout tournament along with England Sevens teammate Chris Brightwell, who scored five tries. “I just saw a bit of space on the blind side, but I ended up having to pull out of the sprint as he was catching me. I saw Rich on the inside, thought I’d give it a go and he got there in the end. He’s pretty quick. To go that quick at that time of the game is pretty impressive,” said the slightly built 19-year-old. “We’ve had a lot of dinners with the club talking about how they really want to win it, so it’s amazing for Chris and I to win it on our first trip. Now, we just hope England can go well at the weekend and win the Sevens.”
Team manager Craig Brown immediately phoned Penguins co-founder Alan Wright to inform him of the victory, which followed two final losses in 2007 and 2008, a Plate win in 2009 and three straight semi-final defeats. “I think Alan will be doing cartwheels down the streets, which is not bad for an 83-year-old,” said Brown, who included Lightfoot-Brown, Brightwell, Sigg and captain Reece Robinson among the team’s outstanding performers.
“They scored two breakaway tries, but I thought we made two well constructed team tries. When they almost scored at the end, we thought, what can we do from here. Then James, cheeky little bugger that he is, made a break and Richard followed up to just beat the Fijian to the ball.”
ULR Samurai International fielded 15 Fijians and Australian flanker Lala Lam in their bid to win the Cup, but suffered a Cup final defeat for a second time, after losing to Aliens in 2010. Penguins knocked out top seeds BGC APB All Stars 7-5 in the quarter-finals, through a pushover try by Brightwell and a conversion from out wide by Lightfoot-Brown. Penguins then beat Malaysian giants Cobra 22-17 in the semi-finals with tries by Sigg, Chris Walker, Brightwell and Robinson.
Samurai beat the all-New Zealand Tradition YCAC 19-12 in the semi-finals. Samurai raced to a 19-0 lead at half-time through Pio Tuwai and a brace by Nasoni Roko before withstanding a second-half onslaught by the seventh seeds, led by tries by Jed Brown and Jack Wilson.
In the Plate final, Fijian winger Joe Lilidamu touched down four times to finish as the tournament’s top scorer with 10 tries as the APBs lifted the second-tier trophy, a year after winning the Cup. Coach Tana Umaga vowed the team would bounce back next year. “We’re happy to take the Plate, but hopefully we can take back the main title next year. If I’m available I’d like to come back. We’ve got a good group of guys, but I suppose we need to step up,” Umaga said. “The standard has definitely improved from last year. We came up against some great defences and people very determined to do well. It’s great for the teams and the tournament and I think it’ll just keep getting better and teams need to be prepared. We’ll have to have a think about how we approach this week next time.”
Lloyd McDermott Warriors, made up of Aboriginal Australians, beat German side Freshfields Wild Titans 26-5 in the Bowl final to collect their first silverware at the event after losing in the finals of the Plate in 2011 and Shield last year. Rugby league star Michael Lett and former Australia Sevens player Arthur Little each scored six tries over the two days, while Little also made 12 conversions.
“The guys worked very hard prior coming to Hong Kong. We didn’t play that well on the first day, but we improved as the guys got used to each other and the speed of the game,” said coach Glen Ella, the former Wallaby who won the Hong Kong Sevens four times. “Michael Lett was outstanding for us at outside and Arthur Little was consistent in every match. We had three injuries to our forwards, so our forwards busted a gut in each game and they deserve massive credit.”