TNT Shanghai International Touch Tournament 2008
28 November 2008
The weather gods smiled kindly on the local touch football community when the day broke bright and clear for the fifth annual Shanghai International Touch Tournament. Jiangwan Stadium proved to be the ideal venue and the tournament organisation was again exemplary. Each year the tournament has been staged the standard of the touch played has been raised, and this was particularly true this year. At the end of what was an outstanding day of touch action, the referees also commented that player attitude and sportsmanship had been consistently good throughout the day.
The Master’s Competition was contested by four teams. The Singapore Bucks set the early pace with a seven to two win over Tianjin TR, and then a four to two win over the Beijing Devils. Having topped the round robin stage the Singapore Bucks then easily accounted for Tianjin TR seven to nil in the semi-final while the Beijing Devils pipped the local Odds & Sods by one score in the other semi. The Bucks then proved themselves worthy champions with a five point win over the Devils in the final.
Four teams also contested the women’s competition, including a mixed team of primary school children from Yew Cheung International School. The YC Junior team turned out to be the surprise package of the competition. A well-coached young team, they stunned the local Sassy Shrimps side eight to one and then accounting for the Beijing Devils five to two.
The Shanghai Cavaliers coasted to wins over the Beijing Devils, seven to one, and the Sassy Shrimps; nine to nil. The match of the round robin was therefore the Cavaliers against the YC Juniors. Cavaliers’ captain Krystal Rota stepped up with two line-breaks at vital moments to swing the game her side’s way.
The final, therefore, saw the YC Juniors face off against the Cavaliers. The Yew Cheung team competed well with their youthful fitness and the sheer weight of their enthusiasm. The Cavaliers eased away in the second half to pull two scores clear and triumph four points to two. Local player Carla Gugenberger made a decisive score with a nice dummy late in the first half, and then Krystal Rota closed the game out with one of her typically elusive runs in the second half.
Men’s Open Competition
Twelve teams, split into two pools, contested the Men’s Open Division. In Pool A, The Shanghai Cavaliers set the early running in their first game by beating a handy looking Shanghai Tigers team 10 to nil. New Zealand representatives Bruce Kake and Dean Williams were particularly prominent in introducing the tournament to their own brand of free-style touch. By using the full width of the field, changing angles constantly on attack, and with captain Henry Dunn expertly controlling the tempo of the game around the ruck, they proved difficult to defend against. The Cavaliers cruised through the round robin section scoring 47 points and conceding only one.
Local side Koko-B-Ware, with their mixture of straight running and long rugby union-style passing, was the other team to progress to the semi-finals with a series of comfortable wins. Jimmy Parfitt was a constant threat on attack using his ball skills to put players into space.
Across in Pool B, The Closet Guys, a team of local players that assembled just before the tournament, improved as their combinations gelled through increased game time together. The Closet Guys scrapped past the Shanghai Rhinos by a single score in their first game, recorded another one point victory over the Dulwich Jaguars and then recorded their only loss to last year’s tournament winners, Zhong Kui from Beijing.
Zhong Kui’s only slip-up was a two-all draw with the Rhinos. They had, however, been pushed close in other games including a one point win over Dulwich. Zhong Kui did not look to be playing to same high standard they had set the previous year in winning the competition.
The semi-final between Koko-B-Ware and Zhong Kui was perhaps the game of tournament with John Woodberry scoring in the dying moments of the game to seal the victory by a single point. In the other semi-final, the Cavaliers were now well into their stride. They registered a comfortable eight to one victory over the Closet Guys, whose score came through a well-taken intercept by Jerome. In the first half, Dean Marsh scored arguably the try of the tournament by latching onto one of Roger Rota’s many rugby league-style inside reverse passes. Marsh took the ball running back on the reverse angle, turned the defence inside out with a jinking run that began in his own half, before placing the ball using his outside hand while diving into the corner.
The Men’s Open final between Koko-B-Ware and the Cavaliers started with the Koko players unsettling the Cavaliers by employing the seldom-seen swan dive technique in which the ball carrier dives, voluntarily, towards the feet of the defender. Koko-B-Ware did then settle into a more orthodox pattern as they held the Cavaliers scoreless for a large chunk of the first half. In two instances with Koko-B-Ware on attack and beginning to apply some pressure to the Cavaliers for perhaps the first time all day, Bruce Kake stole two vital incepts, and scored from both. The final score was six to nil to the Cavaliers.
The Mixed Competition was contested by two pools of five teams. In Pool A, visitors from Korea, R-Seouls, went through the round robin unbeaten, scoring 21 points while conceding only four. R-Seouls’ mix of quick ruck ball, use of good angles on attack and a well-organised defence saw them top the group. A Beijing team, Zhong Kui, was the other outfit to progress to the semi-finals despite their loss to R-Seouls and a one-all draw with the Beijing Devils.
In Pool B, the Cavaliers, made up entirely of visiting players from Auckland, New Zealand, coasted through their pool unbeaten. They recorded the tournament’s largest victory in their first game with a 14 to nil drubbing of Tianjin TR. The Cavaliers scored 33 points without conceding a single point in the round robin. Shanghai Mixt Up, another team formed specifically for the tournament, was the surprise package of the pool, recording a series of comfortable wins before losing to the Cavaliers in a closer game than the final score line of six to nil would indicate.
R-Seouls ended Shanghai Mixt Up’s tournament aspirations in the first semi-final with a well-taken five to one victory. The Seoul team’s established combinations and tight defence eventually overcame the Shanghai team’s resistance. In the other semi-final, last year’s tournament winners, Zhong Kui were outclassed 10 to one by the Cavaliers. Henry Dunn’s complete domination around the ruck area was vital, as was the ability of each Cavalier player to beat defenders one-on-one. Denny Makiha and Krystal Rota combined in one scoring move that saw the ball passed between the pair numerous times. Rota dotted down at the end of an attack that looked almost impossible to defend against.
The final of the Mixed Competition, and the last game of the day, was an excellent climax to the tournament. For one of the first times all day, the Cavaliers were forced to work to create space and scoring chances against the determined R-Seoul team. But they did so by staying calm, working moves at their own pace, and waiting patiently for the gaps to open up. In the end then, it was a comfortable six to two victory to the Cavaliers.