Rugby: Daveta retain Ablitt Cup with thrilling win at Singapore Cricket Club International Sevens

Daveta from Fiji celebrates after beating Ponsonby from New Zealand 19-17 at the Padang during the 2019 SCC International Rugby Sevens final day, Nov 10, 2019.
Daveta from Fiji celebrates after beating Ponsonby from New Zealand 19-17 at the Padang during the 2019 SCC International Rugby Sevens final day, Nov 10, 2019.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Each time the weather, referee or the opponents threw them a challenge, Daveta responded positively, and their reward is a successful defence of the Ablitt Cup at the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) International Rugby Sevens on Sunday (Nov 10).

In a rollercoaster final - they edged Ponsonby 19-17 -which saw both teams trade leads at the Padang, Daveta opened the scoring in the fourth minute via a try by Maika Tudravu, who was later named Player of the Tournament.

But Ponsonby seized on their numerical advantage after Leveni Tani was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on and had to sit out the last minute of the first half. That was all it took for the New Zealanders to level the score through Rilloy Suesue.

Ponsonby began the second half where they left off and scored within the first minute after the restart through Josh Jacomb's try, but they were also left to rue his two missed conversions that ricocheted off the woodwork later on.

Niven Longopoa extended Ponsonby's lead to 17-5 when he crossed the line two minutes later along with a successful conversion, and it looked like they had done enough to wrestle the Cup away from Daveta.

But there was late drama as the Fijians rallied in the final 150 seconds to turn the heat on their opponents under sweltering conditions.

Taniela Raubula converted his try before holding his nerve in the last minute to convert captain Luke Nadurutalo's try and send the Daveta bench into raptures.

Nadurutalo, who later led his team in a post-victory Fijian hymn of celebration. said: "It feels great. We usually go to church on Sundays, so we want to respect today, and the win is a bonus.

"We came here not for a vacation, but to defend our title. In the heat and humidity, we were struggling, but we kept pushing. I told the boys we needed to do a double job because Ponsonby are the best side in the tournament, and we kept working hard."

Ponsonby skipper Presley Tufuga was gracious in defeat, and said: "It hurts knowing we could have won it, but I'm proud of our young team with an average age of 20 because we left everything on the field.

"We cannot finish on this note. We know we can get there and be champions so we will be back for sure."

Earlier in the day, in the other finals, BKK came from behind to beat Sri Lanka Tuskers 17-7 for the Shield, Tamariva scored two tries in the final minute to edge Palmyra 15-14 for the Plate, and East Arnhem eased past Kurumi 29-7 for the Bowl.

In the Schools and Colleges category, Tanglin Trust School extended their dominance in the Under-18 Sithawalla Cup by beating Dubai College A 24-12, retaining the title their seniors have won since 2014.

Tanglin captain Kit Sorgo said: "This year, we focused on bonding as a team and went back to the basics of going forward and attack with numbers so that there is always support.

"As such, our players have the same mindset and are on the same wavelength that we can read and anticipate what each other is going to do.

"We are happy our hard work paid off and we are able to continue Tanglin's proud tradition in this competition."