Atlantis a Surprise
Success at Taupiri (NZ) Sevens
March 1, 1990
JUNE 30, 2013
Signes, 1990 article on the Taupiri Sevens itself: "In
the English-dominated environment of American rugby I am continually forced to defend the
importance and significance of sevens, so it is with great
pleasure that I can report that my views are shared by many in
the Southern hemisphere, particularly New Zealand."
On February 25, 1990, Atlantis became the first American team to
participate in a major New Zealand club sevens tournament.
Furthermore, they were a pleasant surprise to their New Zealand
hosts, knocking off 3 first division sides on their way to a
semi-final berth in what is acknowledged to be New Zealand's
best and toughest club 7s' tournament.
corresponded with former All-Black coach Bryce Rope about New
Zealand's approach to sevens, and he had spoken briefly with
our team during the 1989 Hong Kong Sevens. After Hong
Kong,realizing that our top sevens' players needed to gain
more experience dealing with pressure, I wrote to Bryce asking
whether it would be possible to have a side invited to a top
New Zealand 7s tournament.
1989, Ken Wilkinson of Taupiri called with the formal
opportunity like this was too good to pass up. It was a
perfect occasion to convene the invitational sevens' side
Atlantis that I had founded in 1986. Atlantis' purpose
is to further the development of sevens within the US by
bringing together players of skill and experience levels
appropriate for the specific event.
specific event would require all top notch players.
Rob Skalka and Mike Brodie
inquiries indicated that virtually all top-notch US sevens
players would be interested in this activity, but that virtually
none could afford to pay the expenses involved.
Airlines, one of the tournament sponsors, was able to provide a
moderate discount, and members of the Taupiri RFC offered to
host us during our stay in the Waikato.
costs were too high for us to accept the invitation without
Enter Rob Skalka
and Mike Brodie, fund raisers supreme. Through various
contacts, sponsors, etc., ferreted out by Rob and Mike, we were
able eventually to cover the majority of the airfare as well as
provide kit for all tour members.
Both men joined
the tour and provided assistance in many areas: Mike helped out
in various organizational areas, and Rob provided many
insightful comments in strategic and tactical areas regarding
our performance on the field.
contacted locally were Schweppes, Guinness, Matt Godek and New
York City's Red Lion Pub, all of whom provided assistance to our
The Atlantis Squad
Manager: Mike Brodie
Coach: Emil Signes
Ass't Manager and Coach: Rob Skalka
The following nine
members comprised the Atlantis playing squad that competed in
the 1990 Taupiri Sevens:
Brewington, Maryland Old Boys (MOB)
Chris O'Brien, Old Blues (CA)
31 Chris Petrakes, MOB
127 Dave Poquette, Grad
58 Mike Siano,
Steve Siano, Philadelphia-Whitemarsh
Charlie Wilkinson, NOVA
Williams, Los Angeles
Kevin Higgins was the tenth
member of the squad until the last moment, but sustained a minor
injury and chose to recover to be fit for the Eagles' 15s tour
The final member of the tour party was Will Brewington's wife
Members of the
tour party joined up in Honolulu late on the evening of Monday,
February 19; three -- Mike Siano, Chris O'Brien, and Barry
Tofaeono (formerly Williams) -- arrived directly from the Eagle
15s' camp in San Diego.
We arrived in Auckland slightly before 9 AM on Wednesday,
February 21, and jumped right into our first training session
upon our 11:30 arrival in Taupiri. The press was there,
and we got a nice write up in the Waikato Times on the following
day; a sure sign that we were in a part of the world where rugby
The rest of the day was spent trying to stay awake, to get us
back in synch with the clock in our new environment.
Although we trained every day, life
was not all rugby, as we got to many activities during the week
that followed. Among those attended by at least some
members of the group were:
o A day at the races, at the Te Awamutu
Racecourse (the 75th
Jubilee meeting of the Waipa Racing Club).
Most of us came
away a few dollars poorer, but Rob emerged a
o A reception held by the mayor of Hamilton,
for the entire tour party. Mayor Evans
community, its challenges and
accomplishments, and made us
realize that there is more to New Zealand
o A boat trip down the Waikato River. The
was sponsored by New Zealand breweries and
relaxing view of a portion of New Zealand's
o A visit to the beach at Raglan. The Tasman Sea
well known for its black sand beaches, and the water was
beautiful Atlantis green.
o A side
trip to Rotorua, with its world famous geysers and
healing waters. The highlight of the
trip, for Chris
Petrakes and Rob Skalka, was finding a MOB
jersey on display
at the local rugby museum.
o Various trips to Hamilton, including
Victoria's Pub, a
local establishment managed by Graham
Osbourne, a local rugby
person who treated us very well during our
visit (the main
item on the agenda of many at Victoria's was
watching the New
Zealand vs. India cricket test match)
Collage from the Atlantis 1990 Taupiri tour.
Top photos, L to R: Brenda & Will Brewington play
chess on long trip LA to
Aukland. The Wilkinsons: Atlantis' Jim
& hosts Barbara
& Ken. Mike Brodie
& Emil Signes
American flag). Inset: Chris Petrakes
photos, L to R: Relaxing
between games - Barry Williams, Dave Poquette, Mike
Siano, Chris O'Brien. Charlie
Wilkinson & Rob Skalka. Steve & Mike
Siano on Waikato River cruise
we were presented with our first test on the field. The
original schedule called for us to face a tough Hamilton Marist
side first, followed by a Taupiri "2nd/3rds combined" side.
We fielded our top combinations vs. Hamilton Marist and defeated
them 3 tries to 1. Following this match we fielded two
less likely combinations made up of our squad members, but were
defeated by Taupiri, 4 tries to 1.
I was upset by this result, and forewent our original plan to go
over "situations" with the Marist team and opted for a full
14-minute game, instead, a game we won quite handily.
The Taupiri result shook us up and made us realize that we'd
have to concentrate more on Sunday and that all sloppy play
would be punished by opponents' tries.
We later learned that the Taupiri team we had faced was the
Taupiri first choice, and that relieved our anxiety somewhat.
During our last
workout on Saturday morning, we suffered a crippling blow, as
Chris Petrakes severely twisted an ankle during a game of
touch. The doctor he visited told him that if he treated
it properly he would probably be available by the time the Hong
Kong Sevens rolled around.
Needless to say, we were very upset. Furthermore, although
we had practiced with Will Brewington as our reserve scrum half,
now that we actually had to deal with the situation, captain
Jimmy Wilkinson and I realized that we didn't want to replace
Will at hooker. We decided to use Steve Siano as the scrum
half on Sunday.
The Taupiri Sevens tournament itself
is described in another
article in this issue of Rugby. Briefly, it consists
of 24 teams, and follows the popular "Hong Kong" format -- 8
brackets of 3 teams each.
Our bracket consisted of Auckland Suburbs, a first
division Auckland side, and the Tokoroa Pirates, another top
side from the southern Waikato. Our hosts seemed to feel that
if we could somehow manage to squeak by Suburbs, we'd make it
into the championship quarter-finals.
player, Brett Iti, is the Auckland scrum half, and everyone
with whom we spoke agreed that he would run around the base of
the scrum. We realized that we'd have to stop him
immediately and assigned that job to Will Brewington.
were a largely Maori side that we could expect to play a
physical style game -- a match up that we looked forward to.
Half an hour
before kickoff, Chris Petrakes ignored all medical advice and
had his ankle taped. Although he was not feeling
comfortable, we decided to play him anyway.
On the first
scrum of the game Suburbs' halfback Brett Iti ran around the
base of the scrum, as predicted. Will Brewington got out
quickly from his hooker position and tackled Iti, but he allowed
the strong Iti to keep his feet and move the ball away from
pressure to the outside where a failed Barry Tofaeono
interception attempt ended up as a Suburbs try and a 4-0
After some good
ball movement, Barry Tofaeono got the ball and sidestepped as
only he can, to the oohs and aahs of the crowd, and scored a try
to tie the game. Chris O'Brien made the drop conversion
(tournament rules), and put us ahead, 6-4.
Later in the
half, after Charlie Wilkinson had pulled out some typical magic
out of his sevens' hat and broken the Suburbs' line, a Will
Brewington football pass to Chris O'Brien resulted in a try and
a 12-4 lead.
In the second
half, Suburbs narrowed the lead to 12-10 as a break by their
center resulted in a try. Another long Suburbs break
nearly resulted in an Atlantis defeat, but Chris O'Brien made a
tremendous tackle less than 5 yards from the goal line,
thwarting the attempt and saving the game. Another Barry
Tofaeono step resulted in our last try and a 16-10 victory.
5. C. Wilkinson
was just about a flawless game, in which our ball handling and
support work were firing on all cylinders. Our display was
so impressive that Auckland selector Morris Trapp remarked that
our ball skills, and the way we were creating the gaps, were the
best he'd ever seen, on any team, anywhere. Great praise
The first try was
scored by Jim Wilkinson after good support from a tackle
situation, and was followed by a Mike Siano try after good ball
handling led to a gap which he breached. Chris Petrakes,
proving the doctor wrong, followed with a hat trick of tries,
and Barry Tofaeono added the sixth with a great individual move.
conversions must be drop kicks" hurt us in this game; with Chris
O'Brien out, we went to Barry, who made only one kick of six.
5. C. Wilkinson
6. S. Siano
Our pool victory
meant that we advanced to the Cup quarterfinals. Our opponent,
Waitete, was the King Country 1989 league champion (15s).
however, went into a Jekyll and Hyde mode as our excellent
game against the Pirates was followed by an abysmal performance.
The score was
tied 6-6 (O'Brien try) with less than 15 seconds left, and under
the tournament rules, we would have lost, as Waitete had scored
awarded a penalty at our 5 meter line, and instead of kicking
it, chose to run it, were tackled, and a Steve Siano clearing
kick was run down by Dave Poquette, who fought off two tacklers
and fed the ball to Will Brewington, who ran it in about 75
yards for the winning try.
1. M.Siano *
5. C. Wilkinson
* replaced by Poquette
Having surprised most
of the Kiwi fans (and ourselves) by our success, we found
ourselves in the company of "the big boys." The top two teams in
the tournament were definitely figured to be Auckland Marist and
With the two
newest All-Black wingers (Craig Innes and Vi-anga Tuigamala),
Ponsonby ran three quick tries down our throat before we
In the second
half we played Ponsonby even and got the score down to 14-6, and
threatened again. Had we scored and made it a 14-12
game, we would have positioned ourselves for a tremendous
upset. Ponsonby, however, took advantage of an offensive
mistake on our part, and their score made the final 20-6.
scored our only try.
5. C. Wilkinson
other semi-final featured Auckland Marist and Taupiri; our hosts
who had played so well on Thursday night repeated their
performance when it counted and got much further than they
expected. In this game, however, the inevitable finally
happened and Auckland Marist came off with a 30-0 victory.
The Championship Finals
game started out as if Ponsonby were going to thrash Marist by
30 or 40 points, as they led 16-0 five minutes into the first
Zin Zan Brooke, however, took over virtually every phase of
the game at that point, beginning with a long kick to winger
Terry Wright that Ponsonby didn't even bother to chase.
In the end, Marist's composure, and Ponsonby's lack of it,
resulted in a 28-16 Marist victory.
The game was very exciting to watch and was of Hong Kong
championship caliber. Great stuff!
Atlantis players basked
in the congratulations of the fans and opposing players as the
festivities wound to a close. Nevertheless, as befits those
who strive for nothing less than perfection, there was some
speculation as to how we might have been able to pull off a
miracle finish vs. Ponsonby.
The universal feeling in the Atlantis camp, after all was said and
done, was one of real accomplishment.
Atlantis has been invited back in 1991, and will probably accept:
the Taupiri Sevens is a great venue for development of top notch
sevens' players, of decision makers under pressure.