Crack New Zealand team Aliens bounced back from an indifferent first day to win the GFI HKFC Tens in brilliant fashion on Thursday (March 26).
The second seeds stormed to a 24-7 Cup final victory over the Alternative New Zealand Legends before a boisterous crowd at Hong Kong Football Club. ”I’m shellshocked, really,” said Aliens coach Willie Los’e. “I thought we’d blown it after the first day. I didn’t think we’d shown enough to indicate we could compete on day two. But that’s the beauty of sport. We had a good team talk this morning, I put the pressure back on the players and they responded in the best way.”
Aliens had suffered a shock pool defeat to SOC GEN Pyrenees from France on day one of the two-day tournament to leave themselves a tough quarter-final against the top seeded Penguins. But they rose to the challenge magnificently, winning 12-7 in a thrilling encounter.
With new-found belief, Aliens proved too strong for Playmore Phantoms in the semis, winning 17-5 to set up a final showdown against the third seeded Legends. Aliens led 10-7 at half-time of the final thanks to tries from captain Jimmy Maher and William Crispin either side of a converted try for Legends by Adam Hill. Replacement Kurt Baker extended their lead soon after the break with a converted try and the same player sealed victory by finishing off a superb length-of-the-field team move.
Baker had played for the Phantoms against Aliens in the semi-final but was drafted in as a replacement after flyhalf Phillip Tuigamala was ruled out of the final with a shoulder injury – a move allowed under tournament rules. ”I picked him on the strength of what he did against us in the semi,” revealed Los’e. “We knew we couldn’t put him on until we’d used our starters but once he got on he was unbelievable. I’m just wondering why I didn’t select him in the first place! I’m absolutely delighted for the players. They believed in themselves and started to show the skills that they’ve got – and now they’re the Cup champions. It’s unbelievable.”
It is the fifth time Aliens have won the Tens since they began taking part 17 years ago.
Legends coach Brendan Laney conceded the better team had won. “For a start, we’re absolutely delighted to have reached the final for the first time in the nine years we’ve been coming here,” said Laney. ”The first score of the second half was always going to be important and unfortunately it was Aliens who got it, which put us on the back foot. But I’m proud of the way the boys played.”
Legends had cruised past hosts Hong Kong Football Club 38-0 in the quarter-finals before a hard-fought 17-0 semi-final win over Pyrenees, who had former French international scrumhalf Philippe Carbonneau in their line-up.
Penguins gained some consolation for missing out on the Cup with a 33-12 victory over German debutants the Wild Titans in the Plate final.
South African newcomers Scatterlings of Africa, with 2007 Rugby World Cup winner Bobby Skinstad in their team, carried off the Bowl with a 19-0 victory over the Irish Vikings.
Cardiff University won the Shield with a late try and conversion giving them a 12-10 victory over Champion Systems Overseas Old Boys.
GFI HKFC Tens, Results Day Two
Bowl quarter-finals: Hill & Associates TROX AITCS HK Barbarians 43 China Agricultural University 7, Scatterlings of Africa 24 Champion Systems Overseas Old Boys 12, Irish Vikings 40 Cardiff University 5, HKRFU Chairman’s X 39 Devils Advocate Wanchai Wanderers 0.
Cup quarter-finals: Penguins 7 Aliens 12, Borneo Eagles 14 Playmore Phantoms 26, Alternative New Zealand Legends 38 Hong Kong Football Club 0, SOC GEN Pyrenees 12 Wild Titans 0.
Shield semi-finals: China Agricultural University 0 Champion Systems Overseas Old Boys 57, Cardiff University 106 Devils Advocate Wanchai Wanderers 0.
Bowl semi-finals: Hill & Associates TROX AITCS HK Barbarians 7 Scatterlings of Africa 38, Irish Vikings 22 HKRFU Chairman’s X 21.
Plate semi-finals: Penguins 34 Borneo Eagles 0, Hong Kong Football Club 7 Wild Titans 24.
Cup semi-finals: Aliens 17 Playmore Phantoms 5, Alternative New Zealand Legends 17 SOC GEN Pyrenees 0.
Shield final: Champion Systems Overseas Old Boys 10 Cardiff University 12.
Bowl final: Scatterlings of Africa 19 Irish Vikings 0.
Plate final: Penguins 33 Wild Titans 12.
Cup final: Aliens 24 Alternative New Zealand Legends 7.