Well the Samurai 7s season has got well underway with the team being able to add even more trophies to their very impressive trophy cabinet...........
The team showed they're rusty-ness on the first day as they struggled to find any consistency. However Ben Lewett, Ed Burrill and James Baker all performed well.
By the final game the team were at last starting to gel a little. The blustery conditions were less than ideal for players and spectators alike however the day's games ended with the South Sea drifters and the White Hart Marauders finding themselves as top seeds for Sunday's knockout matches.
The Samurai team were looking forward to the challenge on the Sunday, but as they arrived at the ground refreshed and ready to let battle commence. They were somewhat shocked to find out that, due to the terrible weather conditions the organisers were contemplating calling the tournament off. After an hour or so the weather had not improved and the competition was called off for the first time ever.
As always at this early stage of the 7's season, it was decided to enter 2 teams into this event. The Samurai's and the Sworders had 2 relatively strong sides with the latter being a team entered for development purposes.
The early rounds were almost a formality however all the teams entered into the competition were struggling to find early 7s form.
Both teams progressed to the semi-finals where the Samurai's took on Leicester Tigers U21s and the Sworders faced home side North Walsham.
The Samurai team took the Tigers too lightly in the 1st half and turned round at half time 0 - 21 down. A remarkable come back commenced in the 2nd half but it was to little to late as the Samurai 1st VII went down 28 - 26.
The Sworders were now hitting a rich vein of form, with Tim Prosser'Shaw, Andrew Briggs, Jon Feeley, Jon Skurr, and Simon Bashford all outstanding. The Walsham team struggled to match the superior pace in the Sworders team, but despite a 5 try deficit, played with passion through to the final whistle.
Leicester Tigers v Samurai Sworders.
The game started when straight from the kick off the ball was secured by Skurr. Quick hands in the backs moved the ball wide for Briggs to score in the corner.
The 'Sworders' never looked back and some fine 7s rugby was played on their way to 37 - 12 winning scoreline.
Samurai's victorious............1 from 1
With the Samurai management team away overseas, it would have been the easy option not to play in the North Riding 7s. However, as holders the team was not about to cancel. Rotherham back row forward and Samurai Capt, Russell Earnshaw agreed to take on the job of organising the team and done a great job in bringing together a competitive side.
With a large contingent of Rotherham players in the team, the side started to gel well. Charlie Harrison, Matt Rhodes, Jim Naylor and Russell himself all performing well.
The team reached the semi final with relative ease but were guilty of not taking Northumbria University serious enough in the early stages of the game. Nothumbria, beaten well by Samurai earlier in the competition, played above themselves as the Samurai team took the opposite option. The Northumbria team played out of their skins to knockout the holders in sudden death.
With Northumbria giving every ounce of energy in the semi, they were a spent force in the final, going down to a very well drilled White Hart Marauders team.
With the Samurai team playing in this floodlit 'charity' 7s competition for the 1st time, it was a great opportunity to help raise money for local charity organisations in the Southend area.
The Samurai team consisted of several players from the victorious North Walsham 7s (Norwich) winning team. Tony Skurr, Aaron Spencer, Will Oldham and Gareth Deane were however welcome additions. By and large the team knew each other well and this shone through as they progressed to the final where they disposed of a feisty Southend Team, that enjoyed very much the support of a partisan crowd.
The Southend team (ORNS) played a physical game that did not suit the Samurai style of play, however the Samurai team ran out worthy winners with 2 fine individual try's from Oldham and Briggs.
The Samurai season was now well underway with 2 wins from a possible 3.
The pressure was on this Samurai team from the very start of the competition as they had been winners of the tournament for the previous 2 seasons.
A strong team had been selected including Oriol Ripol from Northampton Saints, Russell Earnshaw of Rotherham & Kingsley Jones of Pontypridd.
First day qualifying proved to be a formality as the Samurai team were able to dispose of several local teams. The hardest game being against Argentinean team Clandestino.
Clandestino had entered 2 sides into the competition and the last pool game against the 2nd XII proved to be a physical encounter, with young Ed Burrill leaving the pitch with a nasty head injury.
The 2nd day saw Samurai progress straight into the semi final where they were to meet the main Clandestino team. The first day's game was physical but this game proved to be even harder. The Argentinian tactics almost worked with a yellow card being shown to a player from both teams. As the game reached half time Samurai were in front 0 - 7 after a fine individual effort from Rodd Penny. Straight from the restart the Argentineans pulled 1 back but some great defending pushed the scorer out wide, to make the score 5 - 7 to Samurai. Then Russell Earnshaw showed his power to to go over from short range. Austin Howells converted to make it 5 - 14. A very late try from Clandestino's elusive scrum half brought them back into the game but it was to little to late.
The final was an exciting affair against 7s experts Watsonians from Scotland. The Samurai team had really saved their best till last as they played some excellent 7s to run out winners 42 -14. Man of the tournament, Oriol Ripol was outstanding.
So the Samurai make it 3 from 3 in Milan and 3 from 4 in 7s tournaments for the season .
The Cayman Island 7s is by far the biggest tournament of the 7s season with only Dubai running the tournament close. $50,000.00 dollars in total prize money was on offer leading to some very strong teams entering.
White Hart Marauders, Rugby Ecosse, Ombac, Red Rocks and the very successful British Army Fijian team from England were all competing.
Samurai had selected a very strong team with management team to match.
Mike Friday, John Elliott, Damien McGrath and Mike Snelling all of England 7s led the management team, with Pat Sanderson, Phil Dowson, Simon Amor and Duncan Roke, (who had all played the previous weekend for England in their IRB 7s victory atTwickenham) Jim Evans, Phil Read, Ollie Morgan, Simon Haughton, Rodd Penny and Chris Hall being the playing squad.
With the 1st days games being for seeding purposes, Samurai qualified for day 2 by beating OMBAC, BARBADOS & ECOSSE.
With Samurais now being guaranteed a semi-final berth, the 1st game of the 2nd day served as a great warm up for the squad. The Samurai team minus the rested Simon Amor and Phil Dowson, went down 10-12 against the Marauders and the scene was now set for a re-match against OMBAC. The American team which included several US Eagles, struggled to come to terms with the pace and power of the Samurai team. Samurai running out winners through some excellent team work and defence.
So to the 10minute E.W. final where Samurai met the very successful British Army Fijian team coached by Andy Hickling.
The game proved to be a fantastic spectacle for supporters and spectators alike. The game went from end to end with some very exciting and stylish 7s being played by both sides. The exciting Fijian contingent in the team were proving beyond all doubt, that playing and training together with the same squad on a very regular basis, can reap rewards both on and off the pitch. Some of the moves and skills on show were truly wonderful. With the scores close at half time the game still proceeded to stay in the balance until the Army managed to edge ahead. With only 2 minutes plus injury remaining, substitute Simon Amor came on to make his presence felt. With the score now 34 - 22 to the Army, Amor went over to bring the scores to 34 - 29.
Straight from the restart Samurai controlled the ball and forced a penalty from 5 metres out. Dowson took the quick tap but was stopped just short. Sanderson cleared out clearing the way for Amor to sneak over to bring the scores level.
Amor stepped up for the conversion with nerves of steel, to slot the ball in-between the posts from wide out.
The Samurai were victorious in a truly fantastic final. The Samurai team effort was immense and the crowd showed their thanks as Simon Amor stepped up to take the trophy and the winners cheque.
It was now 4 from 5 victory's for the season but this was the One to win.............