The 2014 Queensland Tonga sevens program wrapped up in the best possible way yesterday, when the men’s sevens team claimed first place and the Rocky Rokocoko and Janice Gutugutuwai memorial shield at the annual Fiji Day sevens tournament at the Norths Rugby Union club. After two solid previous showings at both the Brisbane and Northside 7’s tournaments, where the Tongan boys from Queensland were knocked out in semis and quarters respectively, the team was hungry to taste some championship success and determined to try go further then their previous attempts this year.
Notorious for being slow starters out of the blocks, the first assignment against Ashgrove Samoa was going to be a tricky task for the Tongan boys, with any loss in the pool stages effectively ruling out any chance of passageway into the cup finals. The game was played out exactly to script with a sloppy and lethargic first performance still enough to claim a first up 12-7 win. A standout performance particularly in defence from baby face assassin Rodney Pita allowing for the tightest of first up wins for the Tongan boys.
The quest for the finals did not get any easier in their second and last pool match against Nadroga, who had the potential to end the Tongan hopes considering the output of the Queensland Tongans in their first tournament hit out and the fact that Nadroga had made their tournament intentions clear when they comprehensively accounted for Ashgrove in their first hit out by over 20 points. Determined to improve from their first performance, the energy at the pre-game warm up was obvious and the Tongan boys were clearly up for a better performance in their second game.
The Queensland Tongan boys were clinical in all facets of their play and the boys from Nadroga had little answer to counter the relentless Tongan pressure both out wide and in the collision area. In a solid team effort led senior play maker Sam Satui, the game announced the return to form of the talented Kristian Satui, the former Australian Junior Commonwealth Games sevens representative absolutely unstoppable with ball in hand, with the Fijians struggling to cope with the junior Satui’s footwork at the line and power despite his deceptively small frame. The solid 35-5 win saw the Tongans qualify for the Cup semis against a dangerous Norths Eagles team.
The semi final against the Norths Eagles was an absolute nail biter and it seemed the rugby Gods were shining down in favour of the Tongan’s title hopes, with crucial moments in the game luckily falling in favour of the QTRU boys. The most obvious example of this, being a missed conversion from the Eagles right in front of goal not allowing them to even the scores at a crucial point in the second half when the game was in the balance, and after the Eagles had worked tirelessly to get in front in the dying stages of the game and seemingly condemning the Tongans to a semi final loss somehow, with the last possession of the game, the Tongans were able to work down the field and set up captain Isaac Helu with a 30 metre gallop to the try line that had the team breathing a sigh of relief and the Tongan supporters jumping for joy. Kristian Satui was again prominent in this game, with an excellent captain’s knock from Isaac Helu.
The grand final against the Nadi team presented a difficult challenge, with the Tongans fully aware of the Nadi attacking threat led by Queensland Reds Wider Training Squad member Varesa Vuki Mataitini, whose electric pace and finishing skills down the flanks had caused previous Nadi opposition teams leading into the grand final all sorts of headaches trying to contain him.
Seizing the moment of entering their first grand final, the Tongans saved their best performance for last, with every single player to run out for Queensland Tonga in the grand final going above and beyond, with a collective team effort that overwhelmed the more individual orientated threat presented by Mataitini and the Nadi team. The Tongan effort in the final was a real display of just how far the Tongans have come in their first year in the abbreviated version of the game, with the QTRU boys dictating the terms from the outset and eventually running away with the game 38-12, sealing the Tongans first ever sevens tournament title to the joy of all the Queensland Tongan rugby family in attendance.
Effectively wrapping up the Queensland Tonga Rugby sevens program for the year, there are many people to thank for the way the team has performed this year, too many to name individually without missing somebody in the wash up, but the Queensland Tonga Rugby Union would like to reserve a special thank you to firstly the players who never cease to amaze each time they put on the Queensland Tonga jersey, coach Somi Tupou and capain Isaac Helu who have been amazing at driving the entire program both on and off the field.
Special thanks also goes to tireless manager Taniela Fualalo, trainer Tevita Senituli Peu, Felila, Vetekina, Eseta Fangaloka, Viliami Tapealava, Katalina Kite, Vika Piutau, Errol North, and all the valuable supporters of the Queensland Tonga Rugby dream who support the vision for the organisation and who the entire Queensland Tonga Rugby organisation proudly represent in everything it does on the field and in the community. The future certainly looks bright for the Tongan community in Queensland in the quest for legitimacy in the 7’s game.
Bring on 2015.