Smit's Saracens lose nail-biter
Hong Kong - A last-gasp penalty from substitute centre Elvis Seveali'i gave the BGC APBs a hard-fought 22-20 win over English club Saracens in the Chartis Cup in Hong Kong on Saturday.
The Samoan international kept his cool and slotted the simple kick from almost in front of the posts after Saracens were penalised by Japanese referee Taku Otsuki for being offside as they defended their line.
BGC APBs coach Pat Lam was delighted with his invitational team’s effort in the star-studded charity match, which was played in humid conditions in front of a crowd of more than 10 000 at Hong Kong Stadium.
“We’ve got guys who have flown in from all over the world and they are at different stages of their season or off-season,” he said.
“So for them to come together and put in a performance like that, after just a couple of training sessions, against a very good Saracens team, was awesome. It just shows what you can achieve when you have quality players all over the field.”
Lam said there had been no debate about kicking the penalty rather than keeping the ball in play and going for a try. “The game was over, so you might as well go for goal and take the win,” he said. “We could have kicked a penalty five minutes before the end but, in the spirit of the game, we went for the try. But with no time left, you have to go for goal.”
Saracens captain John Smit was unhappy with the referee’s decision but accepted the result. “That is what happens when the game goes to the wire,” said the 2007 World Cup-winning Springbok captain. “But overall it’s been a fantastic experience coming to Hong Kong.”
Former All Black winger Rico Gear was the BGC APBs’ most potent weapon, running in two tries and setting up his team’s first score for 100-cap Wales hero Martyn Williams.
“The heat made it tough out there,” said Gear. “There were some tired bodies and a few mistakes, but we showed a lot of pride. We’ve got some top international players in our team and you always want to put in a good performance.”
Saracens took an early 7-0 lead when hooker Jamie George touched down from a rolling maul, flyhalf Nils Mordt adding the conversion, but the BGC APBs turned it around with scores from Williams and Gear, both converted by flyhalf Orene Ai’i.
A superb breakaway try from Saracens’ Hong Kong-born winger Nathan Earle, converted by Mordt, brought the 2011 Premiership champions level and a penalty from Mordt ensured they reached half-time 17-14 ahead.
Gear’s second try, early in the second half, gave the BGC APBs a two-point lead and it stayed that way until six minutes from time when another Mordt penalty put Saracens 20-19 ahead. It looked like the English team would claim victory in their first ever match in Asia but a final push from the BGC APBs resulted in the penalty award and the winning kick from Seveali’i.
Apart from Gear, the BGC APBs line-up contained three other All Blacks in Mils Muliaina - 100 caps and a World Cup winner last year - Jerry Collins and Troy Flavell. Other big names included England No.8 Nick Easter, Samoa centre Seilala Mapusua and former Japan captain Takuro Miuchi.
The Saracens team included two England internationals, scrumhalf Richard Wigglesworth and lock Hugh Vyvyan, the latter playing his final game after a 16-year career.
“I’ve played more than 350 professional games, I’m coming up to 36 and the body can’t take it any more,” said Vyvyan. “But to play here, in one of the iconic stadiums of world rugby, is fantastic and I can say to my kids when we’re watching the Hong Kong Sevens in years to come, that I’ve played here.”
Proceeds from the Chartis Cup will go towards the Royal Project office in Thailand, under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, to renovate schools hit by flooding last year.
The Chartis Cup was the centrepiece of a day-long rugby festival at Hong Kong Stadium and nearby So Kon Po Recreation Ground that featured minis and veterans tournaments plus a family-friendly Rugby Village for which admission was free.Teams:BGC APBs:
1-Pauliasi Manu, 2-Mahonri Schwalger, 3-Deacon Manu, 4-Sione Timani, 5-Troy Flavell, 6-Jerry Collins, 7-Martyn Williams, 8-Nick Easter, 9-Kahn Fotuali’i, 10-Orene Ai’i, 11-Alesana Tuilagi, 12-Seilala Mapusua, 13-Seru Rabeni, 14-Rico Gear, 15-Mils Muliaina.
Substitutes: 16-Viliami Ma’asi, 17-Angus Ta’avao, 18-Tonga Lea’aetoa, 19-Finau Tupa, 20-Henry Tuilagi, 21-Takuro Miuchi, 22-Peter McKee, 23-Francis Saili, 24-Elvis Seveali’i, 25-Vilimoni Delasau.Saracens:
1-Mako Vunipola, 2-Jamie George, 3-John Smit (captain), 4-Hugh Vyvyan, 5-Eoin Sheriff, 6-George Kruis, 7-Will Fraser, 8-Jackson Wray, 9-Richard Wigglesworth, 10-Nils Mordt, 11-James Short, 12-Adam Powell, 13-Henry Staff, 14-Nathan Earle, 15-Duncan Taylor.
Substitutes: 16-Scott Spurling, 17-Ricky Reves, 18-Alex Rae, 19-Gregor Gillanders, 20-Luke Baldwin, 21-James Tirrell, 22-Nick Tomkins.
Referee: Taku Otsuki (Japan).