RN 7s Players Enjoy Success in the Heat of Dubai
Three Royal Navy Sharks rugby players turned their backs on the grey December weather in the UK; packed their bags and sandals and jetted off to Dubai to play the abbreviated form of the game. Tris Trehan and Ben Jeacock played in the 7s tournament and Manoa Satala in the 10s with all three representing the J9 Foundation set up by former Springbok Joost Van der Westhuizen.
Van der Westhuizen played for South Africa in 89 test matches, scoring 38 tries, and was a member of the victorious South African rugby team at the 1995 World Cup. In 2011 he was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease and he subsequently established the J9 Foundation. Motor Neuron disease attacks the central nervous system causing progressive disability. The charity aims to raise funds and increase awareness of the condition by educating the public and medical practitioners about its devastating effects. The Foundation has created a platform allowing people, companies and friends to support the quality of life programmes available within the organisation.
The J9 Foundation’s core objectives are to contribute to research in Africa and raise awareness, both in Africa and the UK for Motor Neuron Disease with the intent of teaching people about the disease who will then, in turn, support efforts across the globe to find a cure or cause. A very worthy cause for our rugby travellers to be part of.
As to the festival of rugby itself, back in 1970, there were just a few players and a handful of fans scattered along the touchline in Dubai with the British Army, represented by The Staffordshire Regiment, winning the first ever Dubai Rugby Sevens championship.
Throughout the 70s, new innovations made the tournament bigger and better every year. In 1987 Emirates Airline started their association with the Dubai Sevens, and by 1996 Dubai was hosting a qualifying round of the World Cup Sevens. Now a global sporting event the tournament hosts 225 games in 3 days. At the uppermost level is the HSBC Sevens World Series which the national teams take part in. Below that are number of levels for both women and men with all tournaments played with passion and with determination and flair on display.
The J9 World Legends 10s team is the charity’s headline act; a rugby team that features a host of ex-international players from Tonga, New Zealand, South Africa, and Fiji, including Waisale Serevi, who is widely renown as the best rugby 7s player of all time. The World Legends had competed at the 2015 Dubai 7s and were the current holders of the Veterans 10-a-side Cup.
Manoa “Biko” Satala played a key role in last year’s victory and history was to be repeated as Biko dominated the restarts to help the World Legends to their second Cup Final in as many years. Arriving at the final having not conceded and scoring 175 points in the first four matches, the J9 Legends came up against the Dnata Bali Legends (a similarly star-studded veteran team). Playing on the World Sevens Series main pitch they came close to coming unstuck by the strong opposition winning the tough encounter 17 – 14.
J9 also took a more youthful side comprised of players from the UK Elite 7s Circuit, to compete as the J9 Foundation (Smashy) Bears in the International Social competition. The side featured players from the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Zimbabwe and Sweden. Tristan Trehan (HMS ARGYLL) and Ben Jeacock (HMS DUNCAN) were flown out to play, following strong performances on the UK circuit this summer.
The J9 Bears side coasted through the pool stages and quarter-finals, scoring over 190 points and conceding just one try in four games of 7s rugby. The semi-final was played against the Wyvern Harlequins; another UK based side, and proved to be a tough encounter; the J9 Bears winning by just 17-14, despite a number of yellow cards being issued. Buoyed by this hard-earned ticket to the cup final and by the success of the J9 World Legends, the young J9 side fought until the very last second against the Projecx Waterboys to win 15-14 in the final play. Tris and Ben played key parts in the final, scoring two of the side’s three tries to secure the Cup.
Tris spoke following the win: “I’m very proud to have played a part in this week’s success- to have both J9 sides win their competitions gives great exposure to the players but more importantly to the J9 Foundation. We’ve had a great time here in Dubai but our contribution to the charity is definitely the most rewarding part of it all.”
A clean sweep for the Royal Navy players.
Capt Roger Readwin RN, RNRU Director of Rugby said of the three, “I am delighted for the success that Biko, Tris and Ben achieved in Dubai to the backdrop of the World Rugby Sevens Series. To be selected in the first instance shows the true worth of the individual and to play so well speaks volumes about them as well as highlighting the strength and depth of Royal Navy rugby. They should be rightly proud of their achievements and I am sure they enjoyed celebrating their team’s achievements after the tournament.”
R1 Belgium Barbarians Rugby Sevens 0 – 52 J9
R2 Abu Dhabi Saracens Social 5 – 53 J9
QF J9 45 – 0 The Conquistadors
SF J9 17 – 12 Wyvern Harlequins (IS)
Final J9 15 – 14 Projecx Waterboys
R1 J9 Legends 50 – 0 Sanitas Alcobendas
R2 J9 Legends 73 – 0 West Coast Masters
QF J9 Legends 33 – 0 Racing Foundation Vets
SF J9 Legends 19 - 0 Joining Jack Veterans
Final J9 Legends 17 – 14 Dnata Bali Legends
Words by J Campbell-Baldwin and T Trehan
Images courtesy of © Mark Dunkley and Yalla Rugby