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TMO Marist 7s Flag Day Tournament — last hurrah

The 3rd and last TMO Marist American Samoa 7s Flag Day Tournament will take place at the Tafuna Veterans Stadium this Friday and Saturday,  the 11th and 12th of April.


Eight local teams will play for the championship Cup and $10,000 first prize. They are: A’asu, Avele, Tafuna Jets, Marist, Nu’uuli, Lauli’i, Lalomalava, and Leone.


They will do battle against 15 teams from Samoa: Vaiala, Vailele, Vaimoso, Valima Marist St. Joseph, Vailima Pure Marist Angels, Apia Maroons, Laulii Lions, Taga Blow Holes, Fa'atoia, Satitoa, Tepatasi, Lalomauga, Neiafu - Itu Asau, Nofoali'i, and Maota Togo A’asa.


TMO, the tournament’s major sponsor is proud to feature profiles of the 15 teams from Samoa and the 8 local teams that will play.


Today, TMO presents a team profile ofLauli’i Lions team from Samoa, runner-up of the 2014 Vailima Marist Samoa International Sevens Tournament at Apia Park, last month.


Samoa's Lauli’i Lions Ready To Roar


One team that had everybody talking in this year’s Annual Vailima Marist Samoa International Sevens Tournament is the Lauli’i Lions, when they defeated powerhouse BBE Vaiala Ulalei in a thrilling David and Goliath semifinal match, to make a historical entrance to the final against Vailele.


Up against a star-studded Vailele lineup, the Lions were undaunted and gave them a run for their money going down 14-5.


And they have been training hard in order to repeat that feat in this weekend’s Tautua Mo Oe Marist American Samoa International Sevens Tournament.


Like Vailele, the Lauli’i Lions have bowed out in the semifinals of the TMO Marist Pago Sevens for the last two years.


Last year, they defeated Vaimoso in the quarterfinals of the cup competition, but were eliminated in the semifinal against the team from Fiji.


The year before that, they trounced the Marist American Samoa team in the cup quarterfinals but bowed out in the semifinal to eventual champions BBE Vaiala Ulalei.


But it is their performance in last month’s Vailima Marist Samoa Sevens that captured the selectors’ and the public’s attention.


As a result, three of their players were selected for the Manu Samoa Sevens team that competed in the recent Japan and Hong Kong tourneys.


They are first-five Viiga Reupena, halfback/playmaker Sani Fereti and center Etiuefa Fiavaai.


However, according to Head Coach Alailepule Spia Pasene, most of their players who played in the Vailima Marist Samoa Sevens last month have left the country. Some found employment in the government’s seasonal workers’ program in Australia, while some were recruited by an NFL scout who was in the country recently looking for players for a rugby league club in Australia.


The Lions will also be missing their first-five Viiga Reupena.


“Viiga is originally from the village of Nofoalii,” Coach Alailepule revealed. “But I recruited him to play for us, as the Nofoalii team does not compete in the Apia Rugby Union. But since Nofoalii is competing in the TMO Marist Pago Sevens, Viiga told me that he would like to represent his village which is OK with me, although we’ll miss his tactical play and quick decision making in crucial moments of the game.”


The Lauli’i coach however said that he has acquired the services of current Manu Samoa player Foma’i Ah Ki, who is a member of the BBE Vaiala Ulalei club and will be a great boost to their backline.


Also playing for the Lions in Pago is young and promising Fagali’i rugby club member Kome Samau, who will help beef up the forwards.


Alailepule said that they started camping on Sunday last week and that they have been working on perfecting the game plan they used to defeat Vaiala in last month’s Vailima Marist Samoa Sevens.


“I knew that Vaiala would find gaps in our defense if we allowed them space to run with the ball,” the coach recalled. “So I instructed the boys to pressure them at all times they had possession of the ball. And it worked out very well. We managed to shut down their engine so to speak, by making sure they didn’t have time to warm up and gather momentum. Once we got the ball, we penetrated their defense and crossed their tryline.”


The Lions coach said they will be adopting this same strategy in this weekend’s TMO Marist American Samoa International Sevens and despite the absence of many of his original players, Alailepule is confident that his present lineup will step up to the plate and give it their all.


“We’re not called the Lions for nothing you know,” Alailepule declared. “In the past, our village youth were known for their rowdiness and they would always be involved in fights and brawls especially in town which landed many in jail.


“Nowadays, our village matai council have worked diligently to enforce village laws and channel the youths’ energy into useful activities like sevens rugby. One of our homeboys, Alex Leapai, who is going to fight Vladimir Klitchko for the World’s Heavyweight Boxing Title later on this month, is another role model for our youth and that is why he is called the Lionheart!


"But as far as the TMO Marist American Samoa International Sevens is concerned, the Lauli'i Lions are ready to roar!"