Brackin Henry (left) fends off the Fijian defence in the Byron Bay Rugby Sevens men’s final yesterday.
Brackin Henry (left) fends off the Fijian defence in the Byron Bay Rugby Sevens men’s final yesterday. JAY CRONAN

X-Rats fend off Fjian challengers

IT may pay to check the academic records of the players that took to the field yesterday for the Southern Cross University X-Rats in their triumphant Byron Bay Rugby Sevens win against defending champions Uprising Beach Resort.

There were ring-ins left, right and centre, and they were all wearing No 15, which made identification of players terribly tricky.

But the X-Rats managed to blitz the Fijians 38-21 in the final.

Not that it mattered either way for the large contingent of well-dressed SCU alumni on the sidelines, with wins in the top grade and men's saucer final capping off a hugely successful weekend reunion.

The bigger Uprising Beach Resort boys did make the star-studded X-Rats work for the $4500 prizemoney, however. The Fijians scored the first try of the match and locked it up 14-all at half-time.

But with the benefit of a cooling breeze in the second half, the X-Rats simply ran the Fijians ragged, with two quick tries after the break, breaking the back of the Pacific islanders.

X-Rats captain Willie Bishop, who spends his spare time travelling the globe playing for Australia in the IRB sevens competition, was one of the main destroyers.

“It is the first Byron Bay Sevens tournament for a few of our boys but we have come together over the past few days,” he said.

“The boys have played sevens before, obviously, but it is good to come together in three or four days and get this result.”

Bishop was not surprised by the quality of the Uprising Beach Resort, who were the 2008 Byron Bay Sevens champions, and laced with talented players who were each the size of a giant palm tree.

“Any Fijian side is tough to beat,” he said.

“They are always top three or four on the IRB circuit.

“We knew that we had 10 minutes in that sec-ond half to come back and with the talent in the side we always backed ourselves and we were lucky to come away with the win.”

Bishop, who plays for the Warringah Rats in Sydney, said his elevation to the captaincy was a bit of a lottery.

“A few of the boys got offered the leadership role but I was glad I got the job and it was an honour really,” he said.

“I've played on the IRB circuit with the Australian side for the past two years and I've been lucky enough to see the world and play some sevens, it is amazing.”

Meanwhile, the Brisbane-based Eastsyde beat the Papua New Guinea Defence Force team 36-0 in the final of the women's competition.

Although the scoreline was lopsided it was a torrid encounter with the PNG players getting hammered by the Kiwi-dominated Brisbanites, and vice versa.

Eastsyde captain Moana Virtue had to wipe the blood from her nose before completing the interview for this report.

“We knew they were going to be physical, and it definitely was, as you can see by my nose,” she said.

“It was a good game, they fought hard, but I'm just stoked for the girls; we have slowly built for this.

“It is good to see some teams running around having a good time.”

It was the second successive year Eastsyde has won the tournament and it provided the ideal preparation for the sevens season ahead which includes the Queensland titles.

“We will stay together now because the tournaments that we have coming up are going to be even tougher than this,” she said.

In other results, Brisbane Fiji just srcaped past Sunnybank 29-26 in the men's plate final; Decepticons beat Eltham 21-5 in the Pool C men's cup final; and the Nerang Bulls proved too strong for Napier Pirates 32-21 in the Pool B women's final.

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