Rugby: Promising youngsters deliver

England Academy delight 2,500 fans with 40-21 win over Sunnybank in final

England Academy's Callum Sirker, 18, evading the challenge of Sunnybank's Junior Laloifi while attempting a try en route to a 40-21 victory in the final of the SCC International Rugby Sevens tournament.
England Academy's Callum Sirker, 18, evading the challenge of Sunnybank's Junior Laloifi while attempting a try en route to a 40-21 victory in the final of the SCC International Rugby Sevens tournament.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Age proved to be no barrier to success as England Academy produced a thrilling display in yesterday's Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens (SCC 7s) final.

Despite a 12-man squad that featured 10 players aged 21 or younger, the development squad for England's national sevens team scored six tries to beat Australian club Sunnybank 40-21 and claim the Ablitt Cup.

It completed a remarkable three days for England Academy, who had lost their opening pool match to British club and last year's runners-up Penguins on Friday before rebounding with a shock win over pre-tournament favourites Daveta in the quarter-finals.

The Fijian outfit and six-time SCC 7s champions boasted Olympic gold medallist Jerry Tuwai.

England captain Ethan Waddleton had scored the winning try in that last-eight clash and praised his team's resilience in the final after they fell behind to a second-minute try by the aptly-named Conrad Quick of Sunnybank.

The 2,500 supporters in a horseshoe formation around the Padang barely had time to sip their beverages, when England's Harry Glover scored a try immediately after the restart to level the scores.

A breathless 10-minute first half witnessed another three tries as England led 21-14 at the break. The fading sunlight peeking over the adjacent National Gallery offered a suitable backdrop to Sunnybank's crumbling resistance after the interval. England added three more tries.

Waddleton, 19, said: "They got the jump on us but the boys really dug in and pushed themselves hard. It's a fantastic result and shows we're on the right track with youth development back home."

Their seniors formed the bulk of the Britain side that returned from the Rio Olympics with a silver medal and while rugby union remains the dominant version played back home, sevens is on the rise.

The academy programme was set up in 2015 and a nation-wide community series called 24/Sevens, to get more people playing the game, was launched this year.

In the SCC 7s second-tier Shield final, Daveta defeated Interoil Turagus 36-12 while host SCC beat NS Wanderers 26-14 in the Plate final. The losers had edged out the Singapore national team 15-12 in the semi-finals. French outfit Froggies thumped Tamariva of Japan 35-0 to claim the Bowl.

In the schools and colleges event, Lycee Francais de Singapour beat St Andrew's Secondary School 19-12 in the Under-14 final while the French school beat Tanglin Trust School (TTS) 7-0 in the U-16 final. TTS thrashed United World College (East) 40-0 in the U-18 category.

The one-sided scoreline in the marquee final owed a lot to the quality of England, said Sunnybank skipper Alfonso Horamia.

"They played very smart, had a lot of very fast guys and we just couldn't contain them at the end."

Their chief tormentor was Cameron Cowell, whose two tries saw him named Player of the Final; a fitting award for the 20-year-old whose father is named Simon.

"No relation to that famous one," chuckled Cameron, while drinking from the commemorative pewter tankard given to the Cup winners. He added with a grin: "It's only water. I'm just really thirsty right now."

The beer would come later. After all, the kids had certainly earned it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2016, with the headline 'Promising youngsters deliver'. Subscribe