The Swedish Sevens Championships JUST decided on the first weekend in August. In recent years this had been a long drawn-out affair with several rounds before one or two teams were excluded. Exiles applied for and were awarded the tournament for the first time in many years, perhaps as a recognition of our jubilee year. Exiles stated this year that the Sevens would be played over one weekend only, secure in the knowledge that they had two pitches and that neither the men nor the women would be likely to enter more than 10 – 11 teams. In actual fact, 9 men´s teams along with 10 from the ladies entered and there was also space for 4 U18 teams and 3 U16 for young men.
The tournament got off the ground in fine weather on the Saturday morning. A positive beginning was that all 26 teams turned up, partly thanks to the preparatory work and control functions carried out by the organisers, Exiles. Groups of 9 and 10 teams are not the easiest to schedule, but the Union´s Tävlingskommitté did a decent job compared to the complete incompetence and unnecessary expense of the previous year.
The men started off with a 3 x 3 format where the three winners played a second round against each other, then the three second placers followed by those coming third in the original groups. It was encouraging to see all the top XV teams entered, as well as all three teams from Skåne. Exiles and Enköping, who had met in the last three finals, were the favourites but interest was also focused on some of the promising younger clubs. Exiles met Hammarby and Göteborg in the first round and dispatched them both easily after competitive first halves. Enköping started off confidently with an easy win against Lugi but then came the first sensation. In a battle down to the wire, Malmö beat the favourites 17 – 15 and then overcame Lugi to win the group.
The third group saw a further surprise as Spartacus overcame Pinguin 24 – 14, although it has to be said that Pingvin had no Georgians and a number of marginal first team players in their squad. Spartacus then beat Erikslund to take the group.
The top three in the second round then consisted of Exiles, Malmö and Spartacus and it was already determined that the winner would come from that group. Exiles had to work a bit harder to beat Spartacus, but they pulled away in the second half. In another tight battle, Malmö were always ahead but Spartacus scored two unconverted tries in the last two minutes to go down 17 – 15. This meant that Exiles and Malmö would meet twice on the Sunday, once to complete the second round and then to meet in the final. Both teams fielded weaker teams for the second round and, with little opposition, Exiles strolled to a 38 – 0 win. It was a bit tougher in the final with Malmö challenging in the first half. But as in all the Exiles´ games, their pace and pressure were too much for the opposition towards the end and Exiles took the title 28 – 7. In an exciting game for third place, Enköping just got home 12 – 7 against Spartacus, who had shown up well throughout the tournament. But the old warhorses, Tim and Robin, did just enough to take the bronze.
An excellent tournament with a decent standard of sevens shown by all nine teams. Exiles had the edge throughout, however, with the Bast brothers from Finland, a still competitive Ian Gowland and an imperious Theo Karlsson, with five tries on the final day, showing the way. For the record, Exiles scored 30 tries in five games, winning the second halves by 17 – 1, the single score against from a misspass when Exiles were attacking. And well done to Malmö with an almost completely home-grown team, who took silver, their first SM-medal for many years.
The Ladies with ten teams also had a complicated structure with two groups of five playing round robin. Then on Sunday it was quarters, semis and finals, making a total of 7 games each (the Men only had 5). Perhaps one round too many, but the tournament was played with great skill and determination throughout.
In Group A one of the favourites, Kalmar, won all their games comfortably, while Göteborg, Exiles and Lugi were close together on places 2 – 4. In Group B Enköping won all their games including a tight win against Vänersborg 15 – 7. Vänersborg won their three remaining games and the remaining quarter final places were taken by Malmö and Wexiö. In the quarters Malmö got the better of Göteborg but the other three followed expectations with Kalmar, Enköping and Vänersborg cruising into the semis.
In yet another tight game Vänersborg took the honours against Kalmar 21 – 12 with Maja Meulier playing a decisive part, and in the other semi Enköping had a bit to spare against Malmö. Kalmar took the bronze with 22 – 0 against Malmö and then it was time for the final between the two best teams on the day. Vänersborg got off to a good start with two tries from Hanna Borgemyr but a missed kick from in front of the post was to prove fatal. Enköping pulled one back in the second half to make it 10 – 7 and thereafter Vänersborg defended their line heroically until the final play when Enköping went over to take the title 12 – 10. Congratulations to all of the Ladies´ teams who played with great determination and resilience throughout and showed outstanding handling skills during the last two hours of persistent rain.
I think most people will agree that this was an outstanding tournament with the two supremos Henrik van Niekerk and Allan Mabon doing a great job along with many others from Exiles. The 17 referees also did an excellent job in groups of three, with most of them dressed immaculately in their inclusive rainbow outfits. Standard of refereeing was also good with laws and interpretations at present changing on more or less a weekly basis. Over 500 meals were served and the hamburgers were some of the best I have ever eaten. 150 people have so far paid 149:- to watch the tournament which was streamed throughout the two days. Full marks to the Tävlingskommittén who got out sensible schedules and zero marks to the chairman and the many union secretaries who failed to realise that they were obliged to provide medals and to ensure that the cups were available to be awarded to the winners.