7th Nov 2017 -

5 Nov, Singapore – The France Development Team playing in its first tournament together as a team, upset hot favorites and six-time champion Daveta from Fiji 24-21 to win the Ablitt Cup with a dramatic sudden-death penalty at the 70th Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens.

The young French side comprising of players mostly below 23 years old were up against an experienced Daveta side and it was the Fijians who raced into an early 7-0 lead through a converted try from Daveta captain Sakiusa Gavidi. However, the France Development Team led by diminutive captain Thomas Hecquet stepped up their game and scored three converted tries in quick succession to end the first half with a well deserved 21-7 lead. The 20-year-old French captain ran the Daveta defense ragged and scored the first two tries for his side before teammate Gabin Viliere added a third just before the break.

Roared on by the packed galleries, crowd favorite Daveta began to show their flair and power to narrow the score down to 14-21 through speedster Lemeki Tulele in the second half. The French side then lost their influential captain Hecquet to injury while Viliere was sent to the sin bin. Playing with one extra man advantage, Daveta managed to tie the scores at 21-21 seconds before the final whistle through Tulele.

The Ablitt Cup final went into extra time and the French side soon earned a penalty outside the Daveta 22 just forty seconds in. Romaric Camou became an instant French hero when he calmly converted the winning ‘golden score’ penalty from 25 metres.

“It was a tough final and we were the underdogs against a strong and experienced Daveta side,” said 20-year-old Hecquet. “We played very well in the first half to take the lead after an early mistake. In the second half, we had a player sent off and it allowed the Fijians to come back to tie the game. I know some spectators would have preferred that we scored a winning try instead of a winning penalty, but it's the final and we have worked hard to win this tournament. This is a big win for a very young team playing in its first tournament.

Daveta, who was hunting for its seventh Ablitt Cup, had eased in the final after beating Tribe 7 14-12 in the semifinals and Japan’s Tamariva 54-0 in the quarterfinals. The France Development Team meanwhile cruised past Australian sides Casaurina Cougars 26-7 and Palmyra 33-5 en route to the final.

“We are disappointed to lose by a sudden-death penalty kick, but credit to the France Development Team for their strong performance,” said captain Sakiusa Gavidi. “Daveta will definitely be back again next year. Personally, I wanted to complete a hat-trick of titles this year, having won here in 2011 and 2012, but it was not to be. We will come back stronger next year.”

Before the dramatic Ablitt Cup final, East Arnhem beat Singapore Barbarians 26-24 to win the Bowl final after the Singapore side failed to convert a last-second try. Cottesloe claimed the Plate after beating host side Singapore Cricket Club 19-14 while Casaurina Cougars beat the Swedish Viking 21-19 to lift the Shield.

Meantime, St. Andrews Secondary dominated the Schools Under 14 final to lift the Lens Foster trophy crushing their perennial rivals ACS Independent 36-5. Tanglin Trust School clinched a ‘double’ winning both the Under 16 (19-7) and Under 19 finals (22-21) over United World College.