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Unknowns crush the 7s party

Manoj Kumar
Friday, November 16, 2012

UNKNOWN Naviti sprung a surprise but defending champions Wardens Gold stayed on track to defend their Coral Coast Sevens title at Lawaqa Park.

After stunning Sunnybank from Australia 17-5 in the opening game in Sigatoka, the resort side, featuring players from Namatakula and Biausevu villages, came from behind to draw 12-all with Wardens Gold in Pool A.

Wardens Gold, without the services of national reps Joji Ragamate, Ilai Tinai, Setefano Cakau and Lepani Botia, relied on the likes of Apisai Nayabo and Rusiate Tadulala, two players familiar with top flight rugby, to stay unbeaten.

"That shows the amount of depth and talent you have in Fiji," said All Blacks great Jonah Lomu, the tournament's ambassador.

"For the defending champions to perform the way they did despite missing so many top players is incredible."

Naviti, coached by Isireli Vulaono, should come through with a win over Red Rock Two today and Wardens Gold should ease home against Sunnybank. Wardens Gold had earlier beaten Red Rock II 0.

Pool B

Aussie Thunderbolts is the team to beat in this section. The Australian national team brushed aside Sigatoka River Safari Navosa 31-5 and Hideaway Hurricanes 22-17 to lead the pool.

"The second game was tough. We were not sticking with our tackles and they were getting their passes away," Thunderbolts and Aussie sevens mentor Michael O'Conner said.

Auckland Marist, a team Lomu describes as one having players on the fringe of New Zealand sevens selection, went down to the Hurricanes led by the impressive Epeli Natuikata 19-17.

The Hurricanes also have former national rep Iliesa Ratuva.

Pool C

The Etuate Waqa-coached Tongan national side, playing as Tonga Aoniu, notched two wins from as many games.

Their first game was a thriller. Pacific Warriors, from New Zealand, were down early after Samisoni Asi scored.

Waqa's men went further in front with a try to Taniela Kilioni and led 14-7 at the break after Paula Kata touched down for the Warriors. The Tongans went on to win 19-14 and later beat Warwick 24-10. This sets up a mouth-watering contest today against Davetalevu. Davetalevu, one of the favourites for this tournment following their recent success abroad, had an easy 19-5 win over Warwick.

Pool D

Former Fiji sevens prop Pio Tuwai and his Tokatoka Babas are in fine form.

They thrashed the Sakeasi Vonolagi-coached Navy 33-0 and handed Yamacia their second loss of the day 21-7. Yamacia had earlier lost to Wardens Green 20-12.

Tokatoka Babas, also featuring Samu Saqiwa, are favourites to take out this pool and should come through with a win over the second prisons team, Wardens Green today.

Pool E

The Kini Radaveta-led Hydro looked in trouble at one stage against Wainbuka side Dritabua but fought back to win 22-12.

The form team in this pool though is Red Rock, a team mentioned by O'Cooner.

"There are so many good clubs and Red Rock is one of them," said the Aussie coach.

Prop Jasa Veremalua had another impressive day as they breezed through their two games, beating Nabua 31-7 and Dritabua 33-12. Red Rock One should be there and thereabouts in the fight for the $33,000 first prizemoney.

Pool F

Ben Gollings rescued Serevi Select after they were down 14-5 against Marika Vunibaka's Lomaiviti Barabrians.

The former England skipper came on in the second half and scored straight away to narrow the gap to 12-14 before Nasoni Roko dotted down the winning try. "I last played in July so yeah the first game was always going to be tough," said Gollings, now sevens coach for Sri Lanka.

Serevi and Gollings both started off the bench. Former USA skipper Matt Hawkins and fellow American Matt Traville both stood out in Serevi Select's second game as they won 26-12 over 6-man Outrigger following an early red card.

Police, with former Fiji forward Sitiveni Waqa in good stead, edged Outrigger 19-14 and faces Serevi Select in today's pool decider.

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