This years 72nd edition of one of the world’s oldest 7s continuing 7s tournaments had a lot to live up to, coming off the back of a fantastic Rugby World Cup in Japan and its own storied reputation. The dates were moved slightly, but it did not seem to deter old friends from across the globe to descend onto the historic Padang field to contest for the Ablitt Cup.
Defending champions Daveta had come to try and win the title back to back, determined to win it in the memory of the Nicholson Family, members whom were lost in the tragic easter bombings in Sri Lanka. Daveta, the Sri Lankan Tuskers and a Singapore Select side had congregated on the Padang earlier in the week to participate in a memorial rugby 10s tournament with Ben Nicholson in attendance.
Seeking some redemption of their own were the young guns out of Ponsonby. The Auckland club is one of New Zealand Rugby’s most successful club and they had with them ambassador Sir Bryan “BG” Williams with them on this trip, hoping to inspire them to reclaim the Ablitt Cup they have only won once to date.
Last year’s finalists, the Cougars from Casuarina , Darwin Australia certainly brought with them a team that could bring them their first title. A handful of experienced Australian 7s reps and some Fijian Flyers dotted the squad and they certainly looked the goods coming into the first day of the competition.
Every team this year seemed to want to win the main competition, and came with squads that looked to contend. The tournament has no less that three national development sides in 2019, namely from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Singapore. All three teams using the tournament as a warm up for their Asian Olympic Qualifying aspirations a week later.
Japan was well represented as well with Tamariva and Karumi Clubs long time visitors to the tournament. Tamariva in particular seemed to come with a side that could spell trouble for some teams, including a former Japanese captain in their ranks.
So with all the teams assembled, the first day of the competition kicked off with a flurry and some evenly contested games throughout the day. The corporate stand was starting to get sustainably fed and the crowd in the public stands equally boisterous. No major upsets, just some really close shaves.
The weather on Satruday was just glorious and as the sun decended one hoped for some great weather on Sunday as the tournament headed into its business end.
Sunday beckoned and the Cup quarter finals started with an all Singapore affair with the Singapore Select squad facing off hosts Singapore Cricket Club. It was surreal to see more than a few clubmen playing against their mates for their country, and in the end Singapore held on to proceed to the Cup Semi Finals for the first time.
Daveta made it an easy game disposing off the Sri Lankan Tuskers in their quarter finals, which was not the case with the Cougars who went against the Thai National Squad in the guise of BKK12. It was a see saw game, with the Cougars eventually coming out victors. First time competitors OGAS Wild Bucks had done well to get to the Cup Quarters but came up against a very young but talented Ponsonby side and went down fighting.
Daveta were scared on the pitch by a determined Singapore side at times in their Semis, but in the end on the scoresheet won comfortably. Ponsonby faced the Cougars in a rematch of last year’s semi finals. It was some brilliant footwork that set up what many had called as the final from the start – Daveta vs Ponsonby.
And what a Final it was. For the first time ever the tournament, including the finals was broadcast to the world through the wonder of technology, with the feed streamed live on social media. The talented commentary team had done a brilliant job the whole weekend, and certainly called the game of their lives in the final.
It looked to be one way traffic in the opening minutes, coming from Ponsonby. The young ponnies controlled the game remarkably well for the first half and looked to be in control. It was a see saw battle which in the end, saw Daveta pull out all the stops and pull the final out of the bag, winning another title by a margin of 2 points.
All in all it was a great and successful tournament done and dusted as the Ablitt Cup was handed by Daveta to Ben Nicholson and their trademark song was heard on the historic Padang. Another year, another set of memories, and many more to come!