Vaiala BBE Back-to-Back Champs
The champions of last year’s first TMO Marist Pago 7’s Tournament came back this year to successfully defend their title, claiming their second Championship title in a row in this year’s 2nd Annual TMO tourney, after they sent Fiji’s Redrock Rugby Club back home with a loss of 14 - 12.
Both teams went into the Cup finals undefeated.
Opening up the first half of the game was Fiji sending off the opening kick-off of the game, as they were determined to be the first ones to score, as their undefeated record spoke about what they could do first, and that’s to always come up with the first try. However, this time, Faalemiga Selesele stormed away to the goal line for Vaiala BBE’s first try of the match, to lead the game 5 - 0. The extra point try by Patrick Fa’apale had Vaiala sitting comfortably on top with a 7 - 0 lead in the first half.
Seconds remaining on the clock, and Fiji was awarded a scrum opportunity in their own territory. Redrock managed to escape to the middle of the field, and with just 12 seconds remaining on the clock, the Fijian Community in the Veterans Memorial Stadium went crazy when they saw Redrock’s Captain, Viliame Navanua storming to the goal posts with their first try of the game, going into halftime with the score tied up at 7 - 7.
Seven minutes into the second half of the game, and Vaiala BBE scored another try which had them over Redrock 14 - 7. Fiji’s strategy throughout the tourney had been to kick the ball as far as the goal posts, and have their flying wingers chase the ball into the try zone for a scoring opportunity. But, it never worked on Vaiala, who kept Fiji to seven points under almost throughout the second half.
Seventeen seconds remaining in the 2nd half, and Vaiala finally gave into the desperate Fijians who were brutally pounding their way in to win this game, and finally managed to pull through when Redrock scored a 7-yard try to trail Vaiala 14 - 12.
The tying extra point kick was a no go — and whether the Redrock kicker was affected by the loud “booing” crowd is not known — but the kicker’s try went far left to seal the deal for Vaiala for the second time in American Samoa as they claimed their back to back championship title with a 14 - 12 victory.
Samoa News spoke to Fiji’s Redrock Head Coach Lote Rasiga after the game, and he mentioned that he was surprised with Redrock’s performance. “We were using the method of kicking the ball and chasing it down, but Vaiala obviously read out our plays, that every time we would do it, they would always bring it back to our side of the field.”
Having their team as the reigning champions of Fiji’s Coastal Coral Week for the second time, Rasiga mentioned that he was very impressed with the way the sport has advanced, not only in American Samoa, but Samoa as well. “The rugby sport in Samoa and here is not easy anymore, even if you’re playing for a village club or a local team, all the teams have advanced their playing level, and it was a very competitive stage for us.”
Samoa News also spoke to the Head Coach of the back-to-back Vaiala BBE Champions, Rudy Leavasa, and he told Samoa News that they did their best. “Our goal was to protect the cup in honor of our team who attended this tournament last year and came back home with the title — so this championship title makes me feel good as well as my team, because some of the players that we brought this year were not here last year, and it’s a great feeling to know that we are going back home with the same title again.”
He added, “as of now, we are just happy and more than excited, we are cherishing the moment, and we are happy to know that there are still a lot of Vaiala BBE players that are eligible, and should play for the Manu Samoa. Our goal is to expose these players to the best of our knowledge to try and have them play for the Manu Samoa, but what happened here today proves to me that majority of my players should play for the Manu Samoa.”
Leavasa told Samoa News that “right now we are going to go out and party and have fun with our family members, who are staying here on island, and we want to make our players happy before we go back home.”
He noted, “I hear that we have been invited again for the 3rd Annual TMO Marist Pago 7’s Tournament next year to come back and defend our title, and I am seeing that there are advanced teams from off-shore like Fiji, so that means when Vaiala comes back next year, we will bring back a far more advanced rugby team than this year’s team to try and defend the title, because as the years come and go, the sport is acknowledged and advances every single year.”
Leavasa concluded, “We want to thank Glenn and Pesina from Fagatogo for hosting us this year and for taking care of us, and especially to my brother Sania and sister Olevia and all the Vaiala people who are staying in Tutuila, thank you for all your support.”