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Avele College Old Pupils team comes out on top in Summer Seven-a-Side

The Laulii team
Sisters United beat out Fiji in the women’s division

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Last Saturday saw the culmination of the two-week American Samoa Rugby Union (ASRU) Summer Seven-a-Side Tournament for local rugby clubs in which the Avele College Old Pupils Association (ACOPA) of American Samoa emerged victorious despite narrowly losing 22-17 to a fired-up Laulii team in the final.

In the first week of the tourney, Avele defeated Fagatogo 15-10 in a very tough final which enabled them to claim the championship title with the highest total of points while last Saturday’s final winner Laulii had to settle for second place overall, while third place went to Fagatogo.

The games were officiated by two members of the Referees Association of the Samoa Rugby Union now known internationally as Lakapi Samoa. The officials were president of the Samoa Referees Association Alan Aiolupotea and Jerry Motunu’u.

In an interview with Samoa News, President Aiolupotea stated that he was very impressed with the improvement in the level of skills shown by the local players and their understanding of the rules of the game.

He pointed out that there should be more tournaments so that the players can hone their skills and work on perfecting their combinations in both the backs and forwards.

 “However, there is an urgent need to raise the level of fitness,” he revealed. “It’s no use having the skills and a good understanding of game’s rules if the players are not fit. Sevens rugby is the fastest form of the game and if players are not able to run aggressively every second of the seven-minute halves, their opponents will run circles around them and win.”

Aiolupotea pointed out that time is of the essence, especially with the Oceania Olympics Qualifier Tournament coming up in the. First week of November, where the American Samoa national team, Talavalu will battle it out with the top teams in the Oceania region including the Manu Samoa Sevens team, Tonga and Rarotonga, which are made up largely by New Zealand and Australia-based players.

In last Saturday’s games, the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award was presented to Avele playmaker Casey TeBreet, the only non-Samoan player in the Avele team who scored a try and was instrumental in not only setting up their other try but also in defense.

TeBreet, who has lived in the territory for almost a yea,r currently works at ASPA. He grew up in Michigan but has lived most of his life in Montana and played rugby in college.

A special prize for the player with the most tries in the tournament was awarded to Laulii speedster Faaolaina Tautifano.

In the women’s division, only three teams competed and the final was between Sisters United and Bula Fiji.

Sisters United won the championship in a hard-fought game and their captain and winger Leonia Lolesio was awarded the women’s MVP award.

American Samoa Rugby Union President Lemana Moli Lemana told Samoa News that a training squad of over 30 players has been selected and they will be having intensive training in the next few weeks before the final selection of the territory’s national team, Talavalu.

Falefata stated that applications for the position of Head Coach and Team Manager will be advertised shortly.

He also echoed the sentiments of president of Lakapi Samoa’s Referee Association, Alan Aiolupotea who emphasized the importance of putting together a team as soon as possible due to the important upcoming international fixtures.

 “It is imperative that we select our finest players and get them through intensive training to work out the best on-field combinations and more importantly to get their fitness level up to par,” Falefata pointed out.

He stated that after the Olympics Qualifiers in Australia on the first week of November, Talavalu will be representing American Samoa in the Pacific Games to be hosted by the Solomon Islands on the third week of that same month.

He also acknowledged with thanks the support of their major sponsor Silva Group American Samoa.