Scorpions Deny Sharks Success in the Swindon 7s Elite Cup Final
Swindon RFC 7s competition
The Sharks arrived at Swindon in a bright, confident mood, looking to build on their success from earlier in the season and to add to their silverware. However, despite impressive performances in the knock out stages which secured them a place in the cup final, the final victory eluded them, and the Silverback Scorpions were crowned champions.
The first match in the group stage was against the Public School Wanderers. The Sharks were cautious in their approach, working their systems and finding their feet, moving the ball in a relaxed manner but ready to strike at any moment. With Marine Watisoni Vakalutukali (Toots) leading the side, they were able to score first with a strike move in the middle of the field with Able Seaman Rhys Dimmock-Williams speeding through to touch down. However the Wanderers hit back with a score and then Air Engineering Technician Ben Chambers was able to score, leaving the Sharks 14-5 up at half time. In the second half, further tries from Toots and Midshipman Tristan Trehan secured the win and, with Able Seamen Gareth Rees and Lee Benzie converting the tries, the final score was 28-12.
The next opposition for the Sharks were the Pursuit Warriors and this was to be the most physical game of the group stages with some big hits being felt by both sides. The Sharks were able to turn this to their advantage with their faster feet and ability to create space. By half time the Sharks led 12-0 and the Warriors were a man down to the sin bin after a late tackle on Engineering Technician Todd Crofts. In the second half the Warriors hit back straight from the kick off and started to get a feel for the game. The Sharks made full use of their new members on the bench and Engineering Technician Gavin Elsam and Able Seaman Lee Benzie were able to keep the pressure on the Warriors to force a turn over for Able Seaman Jack Power to score the final points with the game finishing 24-14 to the Sharks.
After a long break in play the Sharks were back in action against the Silverback Scorpions who had also won their first two games. The first half was low scoring but fast paced with both defences holding off numerous attacks. Able Seamen James Griggs, Ben Jeacock and Power all worked hard to close down the space with Crofts holding firm at the back making all his tackles to deny the Scorpions any freedom and the first half finished 7-7. The second half started at the same pace as the first but the Scorpions made a mistake out wide and the Sharks pounced to score a great team try for Toots taking the lead 12-7 with 90 seconds to go. But the game wasn't over and a Sharks' misplaced kick gave the Scorpions the opportunity to score in the corner and from the restart the Scorpions gathered the ball to make the final score of the game, defeating the Sharks 19-12.
The final game in the group stages was against the Bamboo 7s who the Sharks have played against before so they were aware of the strengths of the opposition. From the first whistle the Sharks were fast paced, with tries scored by Toots, Williams and Chambers securing a half time lead of 19-0. As the second half got underway the Sharks were dealt a massive blow when Rees was forced to leave the field after sustaining an injury. A drop in concentration allowed the Bamboos to get back into the game with 3 scores of their own before the Sharks collected themselves and responded with a try from Chambers under the posts to end the game victorious 26-19.
The Sharks were awarded the maximum points available so they qualified for the Elite Cup Final against their rivals of earlier in the day - the Silverback Scorpions. With the first game between the two teams being very competitive this was going to be an exciting final.
From the kick off, the Scorpions applied pressure but the Sharks' defence initially held strong. Good movement of the ball by the Scorpions out wide enabled them to score first and from the restart they were able to gather the ball back and score again leaving the Sharks a little stunned. The next score was important for the Sharks who from the restart kept hold of the ball and Crofts and Williams combined to create space and Toots and Trehan powered through the middle, creating space out wide for Chambers to score. This was the last play of the half which finished 5-14 to the Scorpions.
The second half started at the same high tempo and the Scorpions started to create a little more space and move the ball more fluently which allowed them to score another try before the Sharks were able to add to their points with a try from Able Seaman Gavin Elsam to make it 21-10. Time was running out for the Sharks and the Scorpions were able to score again just before the final whistle, winning 26-10.
It was a disappointing result for the Sharks however they should feel proud of their achievement - reaching their first Elite Cup Final. The level of their commitment throughout the day in all of the games was second to none. They have played and won two plate finals in previous tournaments but in this competition they progressed to the next level. Skipper Watisoni Vakalutukali (Toots) led from the front throughout, and the new players gained experience from every minute on the field. They will be ready for their next competition in Slough on 9th July.
Team: Vakalutukali (C), Chambers, Elsam, Jeacock, Crofts, Benzie, Power, Trehan, Dimmock-Williams, Griggs, Rees
Images by Alligin Photography / © John Walton