Samurai claim first Middlesex crown
August 14, 2010
Samurai celebrate victory at the Middlesex Sevens © Getty Images
ULR Samurai held their nerve to defeat reigning champions London Irish 15-12 in the final of the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham on Saturday.
The invitational side, which brought together the cream of the world Sevens game, secured their first Middlesex title and revenge after losing out to the Exiles at the final hurdle last season.
Samurai boasted New Zealand's Zar Lawrence, Kenya's Collins Injera and South Africa's Ryno Benjamin among their number and showed all of their class to claw back a deficit in the second half.
The Exiles, who included all three Armitage brothers, England internationals Delon and Steffon and younger brother Guy, in their squad, had forged ahead thanks to tries from Jonathan Joseph and Marland Yarde, but were caught napping after the break. Exiles boss Toby Booth was in attendance and will have been worried by the sight of Sailosi Tagicakibau limping from the field only weeks before the start of the Aviva Premiership season.
Springbok Sevens regular Marius Schoeman had set Samurai on their way with the first try of the game but it was a quick burst just after the break as Injera and Paul Delport pounced for well-worked tries that decided the fate of the title.
Samurai had seen off the challenge of fellow invitational side White Hart Marauders 38-5 in the first round before tackling the challenge of an impressive Harlequins outfit in the quarter-finals. Quins, the 2008 champions, named England internationals Ugo Monye, Nick Easter, Chris Robshaw and Danny Care in an ambitious squad but a late yellow card for Care proved to be decisive as Samurai hung on for a 17-12 win. The semi-final pitted the British Army against the eventual champions but the hard-running of Apo Satala's Army side was no match for the organised Samurai defence.
The Exiles impressed early on and coasted past fellow Premiership side Leicester 31-7 in round one thanks to tries from Delon Armitage and some rampaging running from Tagicakibau. The Samoan winger was again in fine form in the quarter-finals, with Exeter learning the hard way about his pace and power before going down 26-7.
The semi-final presented Irish with a challenge against another Premiership side in Wasps, and their London rivals included a number of big names. England Sevens internationals Richard Haughton and Tom Varndell both made an impact for Wasps but it was another Armitage, this time Steffon, who decided the match with a brace of tries in a comfortable 22-0 victory.
Earlier, Newcastle clinched victory in the Plate final, clinging on to defeat Wales, playing under the moniker of Amser Justin Time, 14-10. Wales came within inches of pinching the result at the death as Kristian Phillips broke along the wing but a last-ditch tackle from Micky Young saved the Falcons. Two conversions from former Munster fly-half Jeremy Manning proved vital, with both sides scoring two tries. Manning and Will Welch pounced for the victors, while Alex Cuthbert and Ifan Evans made it interesting for Wales.
Ben Ryan's England, under the banner of Help for Heroes, fell to Wasps in the quarter-final as they continue to prepare for October's Commonwealth Games and a similar fate befell the Kenyan national side as they were comfortably beaten by the Army in the last eight.