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31th March 2014

Umaga’s all-stars cap sensational comeback at GFI HKFC Tens

Tana Umaga’s star-studded BGC Dragons won the GFI HKFC Tens for the second time in three years after rallying from an early 14-0 deficit to beat Tradition YCAC 29-14 in the Cup final at Hong Kong Football Club.

Australia legend George Smith captained the multi-national squad, which included former Wallaby Radike Samo, ‘Samoan Bulldozer’ Alesana Tuilagi and Fijian legend Rupeni Caucau, while Leo Naikasau – scorer of two tries in the final – was one of two players from Fiji’s winning squad at last weekend’s Tokyo Sevens.

The third-seeded BGC Dragons earlier beat sister side Carinat Dragons 38-0 in the second semi-final, yet the two squads bonded to form a circle after the final to celebrate the Cup success. Umaga and Smith led the speeches, which were soon followed by songs.

“It has been a pretty special week. We’ve had a big group and there has been a lot of different cultures meshing together,” said Umaga, head coach of the BGC Dragons for a third straight year.

“Playing each other in the semi-final meant a lot to these guys. I think the great thing for us is that rugby is the thing that brought us all together. We played for each other and that’s what rugby does.”

Umaga, 40, was particularly proud of his first team, who looked down and out after the first five minutes against an impressive YCAC side full of top-quality New Zealanders, but the All Blacks legend said he was confident in his own players.

“We were down, but I knew … we made some mistakes that let them get those tries and I knew if we just held onto the ball and kept doing what we were doing, not lose faith, then it would be good for us.”

YCAC were 14-0 up within five minutes following tries by big centre Seta Tamanivalu and powerful flanker Mark Atkins, with former All Blacks Sevens player Mark Chapman converting both.

However, the powerful Tuilagi kick-started the comeback after finishing off a move started by the towering Samo, before Naikasau scored his first of the match on the stroke of half-time to reduce the deficit to 14-12.

In the second half, the powerful Caucau then started a great move that finished with Angus Cameron, the Hong Kong Cricket Club flyhalf, touching down to make it 17-14.

Former Fiji Sevens scrumhalf Emosi Vucago made it 24-14 after a sustained period of pressure on the YCAC line, before Naikasau scored his second of the final to kill off any hope of a comeback by the fifth seeds, who reached the final on their debut last year.

Smith, who won his 111th cap for Australia against the Lions last year, was happy to be captaining a Cup-winning side on his first appearance at the GFI HKFC Tens.

“The spirit within the group is really high and you saw in this final that we came back from 14 points down to win the game by a decent margin. We’re pleased with the result of the final, but I think we’ve been playing well throughout the whole tournament,” said the 33-year-old Smith.

“Like a lot of teams at the Tens, we have a team with a number of different nationalities, but we’ve got a big squad here and to manage all 30-plus players is a big achievement.

“This is the first time I’ve played here and I was impressed. There are some fantastic players across the board and there have been some beautiful tries out there over the two days.”

Ahead of the Cup final, Chris Harker, Chairman of the GFI HKFC Tens Organising Committee, presented a cheque for HK$100,000 to Po Leung Kuk, the tournament’s Official Charity. Po Leung Kuk received all proceeds from the HK$100 entrance fee on Thursday and on-site donations at the tournament.

“The GFI HKFC Tens is delighted to be able to donate this cheque for HK$100,000 to support Po Leung Kuk, which is one of Hong Kong’s most established and far-reaching charities,” Harker said. “We’re delighted to develop a closer relationship with such a worthy and caring organisation, whose headquarters are close to us here at Hong Kong Football Club.”

Second seeds Samurai, who lost 12-5 to YCAC in the first semi-final, earlier gained some revenge for defeat to Penguins in last year’s final by beating the defending champions 7-5 in the first Cup quarter-final. A breakaway try by England Sevens winger Mat Turner proved the winner.

The two Cup finalists and beaten semi-finalists automatically received an invitation to the 30th GFI HKFC Tens next year, along with Plate winners Borneo Eagles of Malaysia, Bowl champions Tag Heuer Eyewear Pyrenees of France and Shield winners Lloyd McDermott Warriors from Australia.

Borneo Eagles, an invitational side based out of Sandakan Rugby Club in Sabah, won the Plate for the third time in five years with a surprise 19-17 win over Penguins. Captain Dan Pryor was delighted the invitational side would earn an invitation to the 2015 event.

“It was a good final. Both teams know each other well. I’m happy to be with Borneo and they’re a good bunch of guys, so if we’re automatically back, then I’m happy to come back,” said Pryor, whose side lost 24-0 to BGC Dragons in the quarters.

“We were disappointed not to get past the quarters, but the team that Tana put together was pretty impressive. There was a lot of star quality there. Overall, we’re happy with the way we played throughout the tournament.”

Pyrenees won their first silverware since lifting the Shield on their first appearance in 2008 by beating hosts Newedge Club 15-0 in the Bowl final, with flying winger Dave Vainqueur one of the team’s try scorers.

“I’ve had a really good time – lots of big players! So good, so good,” Vainqueur said. “It’s great playing with all my friends and I’m happy to score a couple of tries. I hope to come back next year.”

Lloyd McDermott Warriors earlier won the Shield with a 17-0 win over Hong Kong Lions, ensuring silverware for a second straight year after clinching the Bowl last March.

Arthur Little, a former Australia Sevens representative who played in the Hong Kong Sevens, reached his fourth final in four years with the team, scoring three tries in another successful visit.

“We love coming here. It’s great for our younger boys coming through and great for developing our class. We’ll keep coming back, as it’s something our boys look forward to throughout the year. We bring a load of supporters over and you can hear them each game,” said Little, who paid tribute to head coach Glen Ella and his brothers.

“We all idolise the Ella brothers. Everyone around the world knows how good they were. They invented running rugby and that’s what we’re trying to do. We always play exciting, running rugby, the crowd loves watching us, so we’ll just keep doing that.”

Now Sports, Hong Kong’s leading pay-TV broadcaster, broadcasted live coverage of the tournament on both days and will air a post-tournament highlights show.

Now in its 29th year, the GFI HKFC Tens is sanctioned by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) and is held on the Wednesday and Thursday before the world-famous Cathay Pacific / HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. Hong Kong Football Club has hosted the annual event since it was first staged in 1986 to celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary.

GFI Group, a leading provider of brokerage services and trading support products, has title sponsored the event since 2006. Other sponsors this year include UBS (Gold Sponsors), Swire Properties, Mourant Ozannes, RR Donnelly and Allied World Assurance Company (Silver Sponsors), Markel International, Eurofins and East Hotel (Bronze Sponsors), Carlsberg (Official Beer) and Tsunami Sport (Official Apparel)

Since GFI came on board as title sponsor, the tournament has attracted rugby legends Joe Roff and Toutai Kefu (both 2006), Jonah Lomu (2007), Brian Lima (2008), Bobby Skinstad (2009), Waisale Serevi (2010), George Gregan and Christian Cullen (2011), Mils Muliaina (2012) and Justin Marshall (2011 and 2012), the winning captain in 2012.

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