Nemani Nadolo powered the star-studded BGC APBs to victory at the GFI HKFC Tens as the giant Fijian winger scored two first-half tries in a gripping 10-7 win over New Zealand Legends in the Cup final.
Legends battled back with a try early in the second half by Dan Tuivabi, converted by outstanding flyhalf Trent Renata, but the APBs showed the character to match their class to hold out for a much-celebrated win at Hong Kong Football Club.
Standing 1.95 metres tall and weighing 123 kilogrammes, Nadolo wowed the crowd on day one and carried on in a similar vein in the knockout stages, finishing as the Player of the Tournament and top try scorer with 11 tries.
“I’ve never won a Grand Final – ever. I’ve heard the hype about the Hong Kong Tens, but I’ve never been here and this topped off a great week. It’s unreal,” beamed Nadolo, who was born in Fiji and raised in Australia.
The 24-year-old powerhouse has enjoyed comparisons to Jonah Lomu and set a Japanese Top League record in December when he scored six tries in a game for NEC Green Rockets.
“Leading up to this week was nerve-racking. I’ve heard so much about the Hong Kong Tens, so it was great to get called up for these guys and play at the back of the line,” said Nadolo, who has played for Waratahs in Australia, Bourgoin-Jallieu in France and Exeter Chiefs in the English Premiership.
“These are people I looked up to and idolised, so it’s unreal to get an opportunity to play with some of the guys. I’m unknown, I’m just a kid, 24, but you saw how much fun I had today.”
APBs captain Justin Marshall paid tribute to the star winger. “He’s sensational. I first saw him play two or three years ago and it’s great that he’s carried on and shown the same form to when I saw him.”
Marshall was one of a host of APBs who returned from last year, when they reached the final in their tournament debut but lost 28-24 to Valley. Meanwhile USA captain Todd Clever also suited up for APBs to help put them over the top this year.
“To be honest, for all the superstars we have in the team and unique individuals, it was teamwork in defense that probably won us the game, which goes to show we had that belief and also that motivation from last year,” said Marshall.
The APBs reached the final with a 24-5 win over 2010 runners-up ULR Samurai Internationals, who lost flanker Jack Wilson to the New Zealand sevens squad and Chiefs A winger Glen Robertson with a thumb injury on the first day.
Samurai coach Blair Larsen said his stripped down squad were beaten by the better team and even hinted that some his players may have been a bit star struck.
“The APBs had a lot of players out there who are heroes to a lot of our boys. We lost Glen and Jack, who were two of our key players, and we had some key injuries at a pretty important time, but injuries are part of the game and the team we played out there were just too good,” Larsen said.
“They’ve got players with a lot of experience of the highest stage. Some of them are getting to the end of their career, but they still know how to play. They’ve got some size and some good attackers as well. I’m sure we’ll be back again next year and every time Samurai play, we play to win.”
Third seeds SRC Borneo Eagles, representing the Sandakan Rugby Club in East Malaysia, won the Plate after beating beat Hill and Associates Scottish Barbarians 26-7, with speedster Ritchie Ah Chong scoring two tries.
Australian Country Invitational won the Bowl with a 21-7 victory over A-Trade Overseas Old Boys.
Hosts Newedge Club won silverware for the second straight year by winning the Shield, beating Lloyd McDermott Dingoes of Australia 35-19 to the delight of the home fans.
All of the proceeds from Thursday’s HK$100 entry fee were donated to the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation (CNCF), the event’s official charity. Former England internationals Steve Thompson, a 2003 Rugby World Cup winner, and Leon Lloyd attended on both days in their roles as CNCF Ambassadors.