The Samurai team arrived in Dubai for their 3rd consecutive tournament hoping to go 1 better than the previous 2 Quarter final exits.
Preparation was not ideal as Neil Baxter the Leicester Tigers winger called off with food poison the night before leaving Heathrow and Will Matthews the Gloucester Back Row forward, failed to recover from a knee injury sustained on Saturday's game.
The players were hastily replaced with Tristan Prosser Shaw from Coventry and James Hoyle from Sale Sharks and both players performed well throughout the tournament.
The Samurai Team were fortunate to have 4 players from the previous weeks NZ 7s training camp in the side with Hawke's Bay Coach Jim Fitzsimons and Wales 7s Coach Colin Hillman also in the set up.
The first days qualifying round was always going to be difficult as the samurai team faced London Bronco's in the pool games. The team put in a fine performance and ran out winners 27 - 14
The other teams in the pool were Kanoo Chiefs and Christina Nobel and the Samurai team ran out worthy winners in both games to go through to the following days quarter final.
Next up were the fancied French Froggies and the Samurai team put together a fine performance to dispose of a very talented French side 24 - 14 they were now to face the tournament favourites the Fijian Drifters in the semi final.
Unfortunately the Samurai flyer Will Rickard was carrying an injury sustained in the quarter final and he would play little part in the semi.
The Semi final kicked off with the Samurai’s scoring an early try through J.P.Joubert but this was to prove their only score. The Drifters then brought the scores level through Caucau 6 minutes into the game. From a set piece Scrum the Drifters fly half took the unusual decision to score to strike a well taken drop goal followed by another on the stroke of half time to go in 11 - 5 in front.
Straight from the restart the Samurai team went on to the attack and a great break from Parkinson brought the crowd to life, but a dropped pass from Nui Bartlett with the try line beckoning, enabled the Drifters wing to race through for the decisive converted try. Despite the Samurai efforts, chasing the game led to several mistakes and the final whistle blew with the drifters through in to the final.
The Drifters went on to beat the British Army Fijian Team in front of a capacity crowd in the main stadium. The Samurai's......could have, would have and should have was the call of the day.
Johaan Gerber, Jim Jenner, Tristan Prosser'Shaw, Andy Barham.
Johaan Joubert, Nui Bartlett, Will Rickard, Dan Parkinson, Jan Harem Van Wyk, James Hoyle.
Coaches: Jim Fitzsimons - Colin Hillman
Manager: Terry Sands.
Physio: Ian Horsley.
Kit Technician: John Pennycuick.
The Samurai team will travel to Dubai on Mon 1st December to take part in the prestigious Dubai 'invitation' 7s tournament. The tournament runs alongside the IRB World 7s Series Event.
The Samurai Team will be selected from English, New Zealand and South African Players. Jim Fitzsimons one of Gordon Tietjens assistants, will be Coaching the side along with Colin Hillman formerly the Wales 7s Coach. Ian Horsley and Tim Weighman the England A Team medical staff, will also accompany the team.
The Samurai Team have added to there strong Links with National 7s Team Selectors, as the Kiwi contingent in the team will consist of up and coming players from the NZ Sevens training Camp. This is a similar unwritten arrangement, to the one that exists between Joe Lydon, England 7s Coach and the Samurai 7s Team.
The Samurai Management has always been very keen to assist National teams in the development of young players. With the Samurai Team being run as close as possible to the professional National team set up's. Several National Coach's now realise that 7s game time for players in a competitive tournament can be extremely useful.
The Samurai Team will train on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and will then play against England in a training game on Tuesday afternoon. The tournament will start on Wednesday with Pool games, then 1/4s and Semis will be played on Thursday, with the Final being played on Friday alongside the IRB 7s Finals.
The Samurai team have unfortunately been drawn in the toughest pool possible. They face London Bronco's Rugby League team from England, Christina Nobel an Invitation side that were beaten Semi Finalist's last year and the Kanoo Chiefs another invitation side from South Africa. With the 2 top teams going through to the main competition, The Samurai team will undoubtedly have their work cut out to qualify for the Wednesday.
A great deal of thanks must go to the Samurai sponsors for this years Dubai 7s. The Samurai have participated in 11 tournaments so far this year and have an excellent record. Dubai will be tournament No 12 and additional sponsorship assistance has had to be found for this event.
ULR Norwich who are the teams Premier sponsor, have given the team tremendous support this season. Bostall's of Bromley in Kent, Starglaze Windows and Magnus Distribution of Ipswich has given additional assistance.
Without the generous support of these companies, the Team would not exist. Thank you from all of the Management and Players.
5 from 8 for the season with Harpenden and Dubai to come......
The ULR sponsored Samurai team always had a tough act to follow after one of the teams greatest victories in Cayman.
With many Samurai players now returning to their 'full time premiership' teams, they were by now settling in to pre-season training. This of course means that less players are available for selection.
Teams such as the British Army Fijian team will now have more advantage than normal. Playing and training together on almost a full time basis will certainly pay dividends.
Knowing that using players that are used to playing with one another should always bear fruit. The Samurai selectors, Colin Hillman, Terry Sands and Mike Friday, decided to go for a team with a South African flavour.
With the Samurai connections being worldwide they were able to call upon several Ex South African 7s players to strengthen their team.
Gerrie Englebrecht, Johann Joubert, Nicholas Albert, Verner Pieterse, Herman Mostadt and Malcolm Aerington were all flown over to take part in the 2 UK tournaments.
For Cwmtawe, the Samurai team had unfortunately had no time to prepare and the long journey for the South African contingent showed on the pitch as the players looked somewhat tired. Samurai Captain Karl Hocking also looked tired and indeed he should. The previous evening he was named as 'man of the match' playing for Bridgend Blue Bulls rugby league team that had been shown on Sky TV.
The Samurais 7s skills helped through to the semi final with relative ease where they met a Marauders team with a good Fijian influence. The game was close throughout but the Samurai teams tiredness showed through, as the Marauders ran out winners
24 - 19 scoring in the last seconds of the game after some lazy Samurai defence.
The British Army Fijian Team were deserved winners of the tournament.
The Samurai management were hoping for better things at Henley. The tournament was always going to be tough with several premiership sides entering as a warm up for the following weekends Middlesex Sevens.
After a few days rest the Samurai's South African players were duly refreshed. The team were able to train together for a day prior to the tournament. The team was joined by Ben Thomas, Ed Burrill, Wil Thomas and Mark Watson for Henley and all trained well together.
The tournament started with the Samurai's playing against an invitation team called 'The Jedi' they were based around Harlequins and Oxford and Cambridge University players. In an ideal first game the Samurai ran out comfortable winners.
Next up were the 'Sky Runners' invitation team. The team has had mixed success over the last few seasons but always played an exciting game of sevens.
After a nervous start the Samurai ran in to an unassailable lead and played some excellent 7s in the process. Next up......a slightly more difficult task !
Northampton, with Bruce Reheina, Andrew Blowers, Oriol Ripol, James Brooks and Nick Beal in their ranks to name but a few. Were going to be more than a handful.
The Samurai got off to a terrible start as straight from a missed kick off Oriol Ripol went in under the posts. A few minutes later the Samurai were 3 tries down pulling one back just before half time to make it 19 - 5 to Northampton.
The second half saw a spirited performance from The Samurai as Nicholas Albert came on to make the restarts much more competitive. Unfortunately it was a case of to little to late as Northamptons teamwork, power and experience proved to much as they ran out worthy winners 33 - 22
Northampton faced an experienced Army side in the final where the Army, very comfortable in the excruciating heat, ran out winners.
Northampton, who had suffered a little from heat exhaustion in the previous weekend's Henley final, were however duly rewarded as they went on to beat Newcastle in the final of the Middlesex 7s. The £70,000.00 prize was obviously very welcome but unexpected extra for the club.
And the ULR Samurai......well 5 wins and 3 semi finals, from 8 tournaments is indeed a fantastic record by anyone's standards.
It is now 5 from 6 ...............
An invitation to the Roma Sevens saw a young, but experienced Samurais Team in this one day Tournament, with strong local opposition and the National Italian 7's team, fresh from the World Series in London & Wales, and featuring Andrea De Rossi, wing forward for the National (15's) team.
In extreme temperatures reaching 37 degs, the Samurais won their two pool games scoring 67 points with 22 in reply. After a four hour break in the afternoon, the event continued with the Samurais demolishing Colleferro by 54 - 0 in the quarter finals.
With "gas men" Nnamdi Obi, Will Oldham & Andy Briggs on fire, the opposition could not compete with the pace and variation oozing from the Samurais' back line.
With a power cut just as the Samurais were kicking off their semi-final at 11-15pm against a strong Argentinian Castroni team, led to a 20 min delay, with temperatures and tensions running high, coach Mark Hewitt kept the team focused and resumption of play saw the Samurais with a perfect start by scoring from the kick off, and playing their best 7's with a full repertoire of skills ran out eventual winners 28 -10.
A mouth watering final with the National Italian team ,with an unusual kick off at midnight, was now in prospect.
The Italians dented the Samurais confidence by opening the scoring, but showing great resilience, pulled straight back with a well worked try by Nnamdi Obi. Confidence was now running high within the team and with power play from the forwards of Tristan Prosser-Shaw, Tony Skurr & Rod Penney and the guile and pace of the back line, the Azzuri were unable to cope and the pressure soon took its toll with further tries from Ed Burrill; Tony Skurr; Andy Briggs; Nnamdi Obi and Will Oldham and the immaculate kicking of Austin Howells with 5 out of 6 conversations, led to a 40 - 27 victory.
Although only in its second year, this tournament was an excellent well run event with outstanding hospitality shown by the hosts, and the Samurais look forward to defending their title next year.
Austin Howells ( Capt) ; Rod Penney; Ed Burrill; Nnamdi Obi; Will Oldham; Tony Skurr; Tristan Prosser-Shaw; Simon Bashford; Andy Briggs; Johnny Weston; Dave Pearce; Manager Ray Watts; Coach Mark Hewitt.
June 21 2003
England sevens captain Simon Amor proved his worth with the last kick of the game to secure victory for Samurai in the final of the 2003 Cayman International Sevens. Amor's conversion not only helped Samurai defeat the British Army 36-35 in what un-questionably was one of the most entertaining games seen in the three years the tournament has been running, but also secured his team a further US$11,000 in prize money. Samurai, who were sponsored locally by Deloitte & Touche took the US$20,000 winner's trophy and the British Army, sponsored locally by Rothstein Kass and Admiral Administration won the US$9,000 runner up prize.
The British Army breezed into the final via a 33-0 semi final victory over Marauders, while Samurai secured their place courtesy of a 10-0 victory over a very gutsy and cohesive OMBAC side. Indeed, the British Army and Marauders semi was tipped by many as the likely final itself at the end of Day 1, with both teams playing some world class sevens. However, the Marauders, sponsored by the Omnific Partnership ran out of steam on Day 2 and encountered an Army team in the semis who regained their form after a shock 14-19 loss to Bank Austria sponsored OMBAC in the Day 2 pool stages.
In the 5th & 6th place showdown, 2001 tournament winners Ecosse convincingly defeated fellow compatriots Aardvarks, while Atlantis from the USA took the plate trophy with victories over Cayman Invitational and Barbados national teams.
Winner Cup & US$20,000 Prize Money:
Samurai (sponsored Internationally by ULR Norwich & Locally by Delloitte & Touche)