The Sacramento Lions Rugby Club will host its second annual Sacramento Sevens Invitational at Robla Park Saturday. The winner will take home a $1,000 cash prize in addition to bragging rights after what is certain to be a hard‐hitting day of 7s rugby in Northern California.
Pool play will feature two Sacramento Lions teams, the East Palo Alto Bulldogs, San Mateo, Sacramento City College, UC Davis, and the East Palo Alto Razorbacks. The Lions are awaiting final confirmation from a few additional teams as well.
“The Sacramento Sevens Invitational is a great platform for players and teams in Northern California to showcase their rugby skills,” said Lions team manager Aaron Frederick.
“Our guys are very excited to host the tournament and are really pumped up to get out there and play some good rugby. We had an incredible turn out last year and want to keep this tradition going.”
The Lions made it to the final in last year’s inaugural tournament in 2011, but were narrowly defeated by a tough East Palo Alto Bulldogs squad. The Bulldogs managed to top the Lions in a very physical championship match 28-‐19, and will be looking to retain their title in this year’s invitational.
The Lions, coached by former USA 7s player Aseri Batiratu, have managed to recruit some new talent to combine with their experienced veteran leadership. As a result, the Lions are proving to be a formidable force during this 2012 summer 7s season.
The Lions are led in the forwards by a powerful group of vets with Nemani Volavola, Eddie Matakibau, and Sione Tanoa leading the pack. The Lions have also recruited two college standouts with Joel Scott from Sacramento State and All‐American SShackelford from UC Davis. This group is sure to bring some powerful running, strong defense, and should vigorously contest opposing teams at the break down and in the air.
Leading the Lions’ backline is Garrett Hawley. Playing wing and full back during the 15s season, Hawley has taken over the role of flyhalf during 7s and will steer a fierce group of attackers who can bring speed and power at any given time.
Helping Hawley in the backline will be the elusive Davita Pale at the scrum half position. Pale is dangerous from anywhere on the field and always seems to break the game line to create scoring opportunities.
In support, the Lions will see powerful runs from center Sione Latu and swift ball handling from center Wayne Koi. The Lions also have former Fijian U-‐20 national players Epeli Uluiviti and Jerry Tavai who can skillfully step in at any position in the backline. Veteran center Dennis Saafi, captain of the Lions 15s squad and arguably the hardest hitter in Northern California, also returns to the field this weekend after missing prior tournaments due to work and family commitments.
To cap off a talented backline attack, the Lions have recruited speedster Brett Willis on the wing. Willis was a standout on the Sacramento State football and rugby teams, and also a 7s Collegiate All‐American. Willis and Pale currently lead the Lions this summer in tries, scoring multiple times each tournament.
The Sacramento Lions are coming off a disappointing loss to San Francisco Golden Gate (19-‐7) in the semifinal of the Nesquick 7s hosted at Treasure Island last weekend. The Lions made it to the semifinal match-up against SFGG after succeeding at 3-‐0 during pool play defeating River City (40-‐0), East Bay Vipers (29-‐19), and Olympic Club (22-‐12).
“We started off the day well with smooth passing, working the ball wide and finding our speed on the outside,” stated Lions Head Coach Aseri Batiratu. “Our defense was really tested against Olympic Club and Golden Gate, and I think we did ok, but there is a lot to improve on. We let the referee take us out of our game plan against Golden Gate. We need to keep improving on our fitness and maintain our composure throughout the day and that showed in the later games.”
“The guys are working hard every week to keep improving,” added team manager Aaron Frederick. “We have lots of new talent and its nice to see that the guys really enjoy playing with each other. They want to get better and it shows.”
The Lions have been playing as much 7s as possible because they have one goal: to make the national tournament. “We know everyone is gunning for that national championship weekend,” Frederick said. “We think we have all the right tools to make that happen. We just have to make sure we keep our knives sharpened.”
For now the Lions will focus on their invitational this weekend with the thought of a national tournament in the back of their minds. “It would be great to win the invitational this weekend,” stated Coach Batiratu. “We will take it one game at a time and I really have faith in this is group and I think we can achieve our goals if the guys continue to believe in each other.”
The Lions still have room for more teams interested in entering the tournament this Saturday, July 7. For more information on the Sacramento Sevens Invitational, visit www.sacramentolionsrugby.org or contact Team Manager Aaron Frederick at