TMO MARIST PAGO INTERNATIONAL SEVENS WAS GREAT SUCCESS
It was the most successful rugby event ever staged in American Samoa. Major sponsor of the tournament, Frank Gaisoa and his TMO company, and other sponsors, like Blue Sky and GHC Reid as well as the host club, Marist Pago Sports club must be commended for holding such a high profile event.
The two-day tournament that was held on the 13th and 14th of April at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Tafuna attracted teams from Tonga and Samoa that played against local sides. It also brought to the territory some of the biggest names in International Rugby Board sevens and 15 a side codes.
The All Blacks sevens captain, BJ Forbes, a part Samoan player was here with his wife and son as guests of the host club. Accompanying him from Aotearoa was his uncle, the famous former Manu Samoa captain in 15-man rugby, Papali’i Peter Fatialofa.
From Samoa, the man known as the world’s ferocious tackler during his prime, Muliagatele Brian Lima was present in American Samoa. Steven Betham, Samoa’s most successful Manu Samoa sevens coach was also in the territory with his assistant coach and manager, Lalomilo Fa’amaoni.
Many other current players who are representing Samoa in the IRB international circuit played in the two-day competition. Some of them were: Tom Iosefo, Fa’alemiga Selesele (Tepatasi) and Patrick Fa’apale (Vaiala). Fa’apale was named the most valuable player of the two-day competition.
Top teams from Apia were here competing for the $10,000 winning purse and other prizes. According to tournament director, Tuifa’asisina Tau Toluono, the champion, Tama ole Ulalei from the village of Vaiala took home more than $16,000 worth of merchandise like uniforms, the first prize money and other commodities.
Teams from Samoa that took part in the two-day TMO Marist Pago International sevens were: Vaiala, Tepatasi, Marist St. Joseph’s Sports club, Vaimoso, Fagali’i, Vailele, Afega, Lauli’i Lions, Samusu, and Apia Maroons.
A squad from the Island of Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga also played in the tournament. Local teams that participated were: TMO Marist Pago, Avele, Tamatoa Taputimu Youth club, Leone Whites, Lalomalava, Utusi’a Knights, Tafuna Jets, Fagatogo Blues, Pago Eagles, and Lauli’i Moli Ole Ava.
The Tama Ole Ulalei from Vaiala took the championship trophy plus everything that was associated with being the winner of the TMO Marist Pago International Sevens. They beat Tepatasi in the Cup final, 24-14. Vailele, the two-time Flag Day sevens defending champion (2010/11) took third place (Plate championship) pushing off a strong challenge from the Lauli’i Lions.
The only local team that played well above the level of other American Samoa teams was the host club side, TMO Marist Pago. It went into the final of the Bowl competition against Vaimoso and lost 14-7. In the Shield match between two local teams, Pago Eagles defeated Utusi’a Knights 17-7.
Former Chief Executive Office of the Samoa Rugby Union, Tuilagi Saipele Esera was the tournament’s consultant. He put together the tournament program and was largely responsible for the arrangements, contacting and securing the participations of invited guests and off-island referees that officiated the games on Friday and Saturday.
In his message to welcome the overseas teams and guests to the tournament, Governor Togiola Tulafono said his administration was grateful to be the co-host of the two-day event. “It is truly a privilege and an honor to be hosts of this tournament along with Tautua Mo Oe, Marist St. Joseph’s Sports Club of Pago Pago and the American Samoa Rugby Union.
“We are very pleased with the enthusiasm that has been shown by the players and organizations who accepted our invitation to participate in our efforts to promote and develop the sport of rugby in the territory.”
Togiola, who is the chairman of the American Samoa Rugby Union, said the holding of the international competition here would help convince the International Rugby Board to approve the union’s application to become a full member of the world’s governing body.
Major tournament sponsor, Frank Gaisoa and his TMO company paid tribute to the host club for organizing such a spectacular event in the shores of American Samoa.
“We congratulate the Marist Pago Sports club, for showing us that fighting Marist spirit and in providing the top of the line sports products that Tautua Mo Oe family of companies prides itself in”. He also wished chairman Togiola and the union good luck in their endeavor to become a full member of the IRB.
Another big sponsor of the tournament, BlueSky offered thanks to the Marist Pago Sports club, for arranging the competition. Chief Executive Officer, Adolfo Montenegro patted the host club on the back. “My sincere thanks to Marist American Samoa for spearheading and organizing this event which I am sure will be the first of many.”
Marist Pago president, Tole’afoa Isitolo Wulf said the tournament was an idea that has taken a life of its own. “This event is really a dream come true for the Marist Old Boys here in Pago and we sincerely hope this will become an annual event for the development of sevens rugby in American Samoa.
“It is difficult for American Samoa to formulate a competitive 15-a-side rugby team to compete with the super powers in the international arena, but there is a great chance for American Samoa to develop a seven-a-side team that is worthy and capable of striking the same level of competitiveness as the super powers in the world of sevens.”
Tole’afoa said the participation of top players and teams from around the Pacific has helped promulgate some of the objectives in holding such a competition in the territory.
Some of these are: to promote American Samoa as a destination for sports tourism, and to become the breeding ground that would one day produce future stars of the game.
Tournament director, Tuifa’asisina said next year’s event will be bigger as more sponsors have indicated their wish to be involved.