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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Different team but same result at Dubai Rugby Sevens for Amanaki Nicole and Luke Masirewa

Duo say kindred spirit in New Zealand side, which won first Emirates International Trophy since 2009, comparable to that of Speranza22, who clinched International Invitational a year earlier

It had been a long time between celebrations in Dubai for New Zealand before they won the Emirates International Trophy on Saturday night.

The All Blacks Sevens had not won the Dubai Rugby Sevens since 2009. That is a remarkably fallow run for a country that must have once regarded this title as a birth-right, given they won the first four titles after the World Series started here in 1999.

For two of the newest members of their squad, though, Dubai success is just something they do all the time.

Amanaki Nicole and Luke Masirewa have been to The Sevens twice now, and won both times.

This time around it was in front of a global television audience as part of an impressively resilient New Zealand side that beat United States 21-5 in the final.

Twelve months earlier, they had also won a Saturday night final in front of a packed Pitch 1 crowd, playing alongside their mates in the Speranza22 side in the International Invitational.

Nicole had, in fact, flown over thinking he would be part of the Speranza22 side again for their Invitational defence, only to be summoned in to a New Zealand squad riven by injury.

Amanaki Nicole, left, was involved in New Zealand's victory over the United States in the final on Saturday. AFP
Amanaki Nicole, left, was involved in New Zealand's victory over the United States in the final on Saturday. AFP

He said the feeling of winning a Dubai title while representing his country did not differ much from doing the same alongside his mates last year.

“They are quite similar, to be honest,” Nicole said. “The brotherhood we have here is just like we have with Speranza.

"Everyone before the final was telling each other how much we love each other. It was pretty much like last year.

"Everyone was like, ‘Man, we’re not going to get this chance again’, but I was lucky enough to get it again this year, which is unreal.”

Speranza22 was set up in 2013, to honour the memory of Marco Speranza, a former Abu Dhabi Harlequins junior who died earlier that year in an air-crash in his native Argentina.

They lost out in their title defence this weekend, after they were knocked out by the Russian national team.

They also had a second side involved in the Sevens, and they won the International Open – the tier of competition one down from the Invitational – beating Projexc Waterboy in the Pitch 2 final.

Nicole said New Zealand’s title win was fuelled by the sort of emotion that had won Speranza22 their title in 2017.

“Everyone had each other’s backs – just like the Speranza boys,” Nicole said.

“We were willing to put our bodies on the line for the guys inside and outside of us. I don’t even know how to explain how we made it through that final.”

Injuries to four players meant New Zealand had been down to just nine squad members by the time of the final.

To emphasise the point about emotion fuelling their win, Ngarohi McGarvey Black had been moved to tears during the national anthems.

He gave away an early penalty, but recovered his poise to the extent he scored the third try as the final was won.

“Emotion is good,” New Zealand coach Clark Laidlaw said. “You have to play with emotion, that is actually the difference a lot of the time.

“If you don’t match other teams’ emotions, you get beat in sevens. Crying like that showed me [McGarvey Black] was ready, and he wasn’t the only one crying like that during the national anthems. That just showed us we were ready.”

The magnificent Sevens
Whether you’re there for the scrummaging or the socialising, Dubai’s annual rugby fiesta is one of the highlights of the UAE sporting calendar. This is the remarkable story of an event that showcases sport at its joyous best
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