Bay of Plenty Rugby referee Jamie Bell and Referee Manager Pat Rae, along with Michael Winter (Waikato), Tipene Cottrell (Hawkes Bay) and Nick Hogan (Wellington) recently attended the 2018 Vailima Pure Marist Samoa Sevens held in Apia over February 16-17, following their appointment from New Zealand Rugby.
The tournament was celebrating its 30th anniversary, with the tournament winner claiming $40,000 in prize money.
Tournament director Brian Kaio, along with fellow organisers, was keen to ensure independent referees officiated crucial games come finals day.
“In previous years we have had some negative perceptions about our local referees by the teams and we believed that in the best interests of the tournament we should invite some of the best referees New Zealand had to offer,” says Brian.
The tournament featured 28 teams. A total of 24 men’s teams, featuring two overseas teams – NSW Samoa and defending champions Auckland Samoa. A new addition was four women’s’ teams, including Auckland Samoa, which included the Black Ferns 15’s World Cup winning captain Fiao’o Fa’amausili. The remainder of the teams came from the local villages.
Bay of Plenty referee manager Pat Rae was humbled by the experience and was impressed with the spirit of the Samoan community to run a positive event following the devastation of Cyclone Gita only days prior.
“The resilience of the Samoan people was amazing. They picked themselves up off the canvas, dusted themselves off and all pitched in to clean up all the devastation, fix roads, houses and infrastructure and run an amazing event,” says Pat.
The rugby was played with typical island flair, expansive play and brilliant skills. For the record, Michael Winter from Waikato officiated the Men’s Cup Final in which Auckland Samoa defeated local team Apia 12-0 in the cup final to claim the trophy and the $20,000 prize money. The Auckland Samoan women’s team also won the women’s division and they promptly donated their prize money to a Samoan local charity.
Bay referee Jamie Bell controlled the fifth and sixth play-off.