Speranza 22 made a stunning start to life as a core team on the 2019 Super Sevens Series circuit, finishing runners-up to Akuma Rugby Agents on May 5.
Speranza – set up in 2013 in memory of former Abu Dhabi Harlequins player Marco Speranza, who was killed aged just 20 in an plane crash in his native Argentina in February of that year – were invited to be one of the Super Sevens’ core teams for 2019 after a strong debut season in the UK and Ireland last year.
They won the Bournemouth 7s National Elite Cup, were finalists in the Kinsale 7s in Ireland as well as the Chester 7s and then won the Dubai International Open at the Dubai Rugby Sevens in December.
Round 1 of the series was held at Bury St Edmonds at the beginning of the month with large crowds turning up to watch some of the best elite invitational sevens teams in the country – including guest team Leicester Tigers.
There are 12 core teams per round and as well as four guest teams. S22 were drawn in pool D alongside established series teams Akuma Hurricanes/Rugby Agents, GB Student Select plus guest team and hosts Bury St Edmonds.
They ground out a 21-14 win against the Students to open their campaign and then edged another close affair against the team they would go on to meet in the Cup final, beating Akuma Rugby Agents 19-14.
Speranza put their tournament hosts to the sword 45-0 in their final pool game, putting them into the Cup quarter-finals.
There they faced Samurai Academy who had impressed in coming second in a group containing Rambling Jesters, Stunts 7s and Marlborough Lomaiviti. By now though, S22 were hitting their stride and ran out convincing 33-10 winners.
Into the semi-final where they faced the British Army who they’d last met in the final at Bournemouth almost a year ago. The score ebbed and flowed in a thrilling game with S22 going 12-0 up before the Army came back to lead 19-12 at half-time. A strong second half from S22 saw them hit back with two unanswered tries to earn a 26-19 triumph, securing them a dream Cup final in their first ever series tournament appearance.
There they came up against Group D friends the Akuma Rugby Agents, who had defeated Rambling Jesters and Apache in the knockouts. S22 got off to a good start, leading 14-0. But key injuries to two players, combined with some exceptional rugby from the opposition, saw Akuma surge back with 26 unanswered points to be crowned deserved 26-14 winners.
“I am exceptionally proud of the lads,” said coach Rory Greene, who is also a long-time assistant at Quins.
“We went into Round 1 with key players from our triumphant Dubai side missing through injury, including Ben Magee, Lloyd Owen and Callum McKenzie, but as all ways we knew some quality players to step in.
“It is always a bit nerve-racking to step into the top level competition, while confident you belong there you never know until you actually play.
“The lads played some fantastic rugby against some of the powerhouses of invitational and club sevens teams to have a dream start to our time in the Super Sevens Series.
“However, we are under no illusion about the quality of the teams in the series and realise that one excellent result gets us nowhere. We now need to kick on and keep working hard to try and get some more results in the remaining three rounds.
“The lads who played for the first time for S22 excelled and our now part of our ever growing family. It is amazing what can be achieved when talented rugby players, who more importantly are top lads off the field, are allowed the freedom to just go out and play, for each other and a great cause.”
Vice captain Cam Roberts added: “After a typically Speranza slow start the team performances improved as the day went on and the new players bedded in.
“We felt like we deserved to come away with silverware but sevens isn’t always fair and a couple of cruel injuries meant finishing the tournament with nine players. We did ourselves proud in our first series tournament and can take the momentum gained from the first round up to Broadstreet for Round 2.
“The boys feel more than confident we can compete again and progress well in the rest of the series.”
As well as participating in the series, S22 will return to defend their Bournemouth 7s title at the end of May.
S22 are raising money for an Ethiopian Orphanage and donations can be mad at www.gofundme.com/speranza-22.
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