March 1997: Atlantis at Fiji Sevens During
(Atlantis tournament #55)
March 1997 (copied August 27, 2013)
Note of 2013: the article
as written by John Redmond, was originally published in
April's Rugby. Click here to see the article
as published. Most of it is copied below.
Atlantis Roster (Atlantis
Number, Name, Club)
344 Kevin Barth, Olympic Club
172 Chris Carney, Montauk
345 Jeff Cowdrey, Grand Rapids
346 Malakai Delai, OMBAC
199 Brian Geraghty, Life College
318 Ben Haraway, Cleveland Rovers
347 Britt Howard, Life College
348 C.D. LaBounty, Bayside (CAN)
270 Jason Maloni, Maryland Exiles
349 Matt Pickston, Cleveland Rovers
99 John Redmond, Maryland Exiles
Coaches/Managers: Jason Fox and John Redmond
Trainer: Mike Kilbain
1997 Fiji Sevens
by John Redmond
Suva, Fiji. March 14-15, 1997
Led by renowned sevens specialist Waisale Serevi, the Fijian
national team romped through the fifth annual Air Pacific
International 7s in Suva, Fiji, defeating Western Samoa in the
Playing in nearly impossible conditions, the American invitational
side Atlantis fared better than it did the year before in Fiji.
Cyclone Gavin claimed a number of lives and knocked out power for
half the Fiji Islands. Driving winds and constant rain
showers pounded the tournament.
The rains kept the crowds down for Friday's twelve pool matches,
but on Saturday, the crowd swelled to 25,000 and the spectators
were loud and gracious.
Of the sixteen teams in the tournament, eleven nations sent full
national rep sides in the last tune up for the 7s World Cup.
A betting man's money might've been on Fiji and the New Zealand
Selects (coached by All Black sevens coach Gordon Tietjens) to
reach the final, but Western Samoa defeated New Zealand in the
semifinals. In another upset, the Australian Fijians knocked off
Australia in the quarterfinals of the championship division.
Due to a last minute withdrawal by Uruguay, Atlantis received its
invitation just two weeks prior to departure; thankful indeed, but
it was very difficult to arrange a team. All ten roster
spots changed completely within one week. However, credit
should be given to those players who dropped everything on a few
days' notice to travel halfway around the world.
We flew to Los Angeles on standby tickets, but due to delays could
only train on Monday and Tuesday mornings. Before departing
we rushed to Venice Beach to pick up red, white and blue hats and
bandanas; big favorites down under. Many thanks to the Los
Angeles Rugby Club for the use of their fields and "Frat House."
There were to be no easy matches in this field, and Atlantis drew
by far the toughest bracket. We felt confident in drawing
Western Samoa in our first game, because we only lost to them by
two points last year in the final seconds. Little did we
know that within 24 hours, Western Samoa would battle Fiji in the
tournament final. To make matters worse, we lost speedster
C.D. LaBounty, fresh from the Eagle sevens camp, to an ankle
injury. Score 35-0.
Our second pool match against the Australian Fijians produced
similar results, with the final score 31-0.
Atlantis opened Saturday's match against Japan, a full national
rep side, with a quick try by flyhalf Brian Geraghty and another
by his club teammate, Britt Howard, producing a 14-0 halftime
score. However, strong winds and poor tackling squandered
this opportunity, and we fell 28-14.
After a pre-match pep talk by skipper Britt Howard, who challenged
each player to perform at his best, we took on Malaysia.
Utilizing our size and speed advantage, this game was never in
doubt, as all members played and six tries were scored. We
finished on top 41-0.
In the consolation final of the Tabua Championship, we faced the
Cook Islands, a team of Kiwis. Although Jason Maloni scored
an early try off a brilliant penalty move, we fell 31-5.
In a beautiful South Pacific country where rugby is the national
sport, and the locals invite you into their homes to drink kava,
one couldn't ask for a better setting. Whether it's a pick
up game of touch at the local school, the white, sandy beaches or
nightclubs in town, Fiji is a must stop on anybody's world