Text from article published in the Straits Times on 13th November 2022
As the Ponsonby players delivered a hearty waiata – a traditional Maori song – and then ripped off their jerseys to perform the haka in celebration of their Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) International Rugby Sevens win on Sunday, it was clear the New Zealand side thrive on team spirit.
And also, as half-back Jesse Pascoe succintly put it: “Attitude and discipline.” The 23-year-old was cut open by an elbow to the head in the first half of the Ablitt Cup final against Australia’s Palmyra and required treatment. But with a bandage round his head, he returned minutes later to the Padang pitch to carve up the opponents’ defence and score his side’s second try.
By the end of the seven-minute half, Ponsonby were 19-0 up before they eventually won 26-14. Incredibly, these were the only points scored against them in six matches at this tournament.
Senita Lauaki, the Player of the Final, also played through pain. Sporting a heavily strapped left shoulder, he popped up with two tries as he powered through the Palmyra backline.
The 19-year-old prop said: “We knew it would be physical, but we were ready. It still feels unreal though, to win an international competition the first time I’m playing outside the country.” It was also a “dream come true” for Ponsonby technical adviser Jack Huch. As the 63-year-old took a big swig from the Ablitt Cup, the beer must have tasted extra sweet as he came full circle at the event. The former Samoa winger had won the Cup as a player in 1988 and 1989, and has now played a part in his team capturing their fourth title they last won in 2006. Ponsonby suffered an agonising 19-17 defeat by Daveta in the 2019 final when the SCC 7s was last held before a two-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Huch said: “It feels great... it is exciting to see the talent in this young group of players with an average age of 20.”
Over the weekend, around 4,000 spectators caught the fast and furious action, with kids allowed to kick, pass and tackle on the open fields amid the carnival atmosphere.
There was also a generous dose of respect and sportsmanship from the participating teams. At the end, Ponsonby players were cheering on Palmyra’s Rewita Biddle, who was voted Player of the Tournament.
Earlier in the other finals, Singapore Development held off SCC 17-7 for the Shield, Barbarians beat East Arnhem 17-5 for the Bowl, while HMAS Adelaide scored and converted a try at the death to overcome Kurumi 12-5 for the Plate.
In the schools and colleges category, Tanglin Trust School’s dominance in the Under-19 Sithawalla Cup since 2014 was emphatically ended by Dubai College, who blitzed them 39-0.
Dubai College captain Max Ridout said: “We knew Tanglin are a good team, but we did well to stop them from getting a lot of the ball.
“We lost to them in 2019 so this reverse feels great. We have improved... to become more organised in attack and defence.”