Asia Pacific Dragons play ball

Lantau is a great place to live if you are keen on sport.

Whether you are an adult or a child, there is lots for you to enjoy. This recent event in Tung Chung combined community, kids and sport – with a little bit of rugby glamour thrown in.

In March, the Asia Pacific Dragons (APDs) pitched up for the Hong Kong Tens, the rugby tournament that immediately precedes the Hong Kong Sevens. Captained by All Black rugby legend, Tana Umaga, the 2014 champions were back to defend their title. But before kick-off, they took time out from their busy schedule to visit Lantau, and train the kids at Tung Chung Rugby Club (TCRC), Lantau’s youngest.

Looking forward to meeting the APDs on the morning of March 22 was a group of very enthusiastic girls and boys, aged four to 12, accompanied by their equally excitable parents and coaches. With TCRC’s successful second season almost at its close, the APDs’ visit (brought about by joint sponsor, law firm Hogan Lovells), was a great way to reward the kids for their commitment to the club.

Exhibition drills and training

Joining TCRC for the training session were seven of the APDs’ Fijian team members: players Emosi Vucago, Waisea Nacuqu, Viliame Mata, Apisalome Waqatabu, Samu Saqiwa and Sainivalati Ramuwai, and coach Zac Labalaba – all well-known on the national Fijian rugby scene.

To the delight of the Lantau crowd, the APDs kicked off with some passing drills (a mix of doubling around and cutting angles to either avoid or commit opposition players). The ball was always in motion, and passed backwards as they ran forwards. Sometimes they ran moves involving dummy passes and clever skip passes, to put their key players in space.

The term ‘the beautiful game’ may be more commonly used to refer to that other well-loved ball game. But seeing the Fijians give each throw of the ball a characteristic Pacific Island spin just for fun, gave the term new meaning.

A highlight of the day was watching the APDs’ top players demonstrate just how high they can kick the ball. If the gasps of the watching children were anything to go by, then the balls were flying as high as the Lantau hills around us. (The club trains on the Man Tung Road artificial pitch near the Novotel Citygate Hong Kong.)

The APDs then joined TCRC’s regular coaches to provide training sessions for the children. Imagine these gentle giants, some of whom weigh in at as much as 120 kilograms, fake tackling kids aged as young as four.

“The day with the APDs was more inspirational than anything else for the kids (and probably the coaches too),” says parent-coach Dave Coyle. “We got to see world-class rugby players in action, performing with amazing technique, impressing us with their skills. I think any of the kids who run out for a rugby team in 10 years’ time will look back on this day as a motivation.

“The APDs got in and involved with the kids, playing and coaching, and most importantly we all had a lot of fun,” Dave adds. Perhaps most to benefit were the older children (10 years+), who really got to experience play with a professional player – tackling, blocking and defending.

Storming the Hong Kong Tens

As rubgy fans will recall, the APDs went on to storm the Hong Kong Tens, held at the Hong Kong Football Club from March 25 to 26, and retained their title. Facing top teams, such as the French Pyrenees, Irish Vikings and Allied World Forces Exiles, the APDs stood out as the team to beat, from day one.

One of the reasons that Rugby Tens has such a huge fan base is, of course, that it’s a much faster game than standard (15-a-side) rugby. There are only 10 players per side and they play 10-minute halves.

The 2015 final was a nail-biter, with the APDs neck and neck at full-time with old foes Tradition YCAC. Scrum half Waisea Nacuqu secured the team’s overall victory with a gripping winning try, just 40 seconds into extra time. Indeed, with eight tries in the tournament, Waisea was its equal top scorer (with A Trade Overseas Old Boys’ young gun Louis Hazlehurst).

In securing victory, the APDs was the first team to defend its Hong Kong Tens crown since 2010. It’s a testimony to such high performing, professional sportspeople that they were willing to take time out from their busy training schedule to travel to Lantau and spend time with the TCRC kids.

Cub reporting

Sofia Coyle, 10, of the TCRC shares some highlights of her interview with APDs’ rising star Waisea Nacuqu, 21:

Waisea got into rugby for fun as a child, and when he was 18 he started playing competitive rugby for the Westfield Barbarians (a Fijian Rugby Sevens team).

He joined the APDs in 2013 and this year was his first time in the Hong Kong Rugby Tens. Waisea plays either scrum half (number nine) or fly half (number 10).

The team trains twice a day, at 10am and 3pm. Their diet is fish, soup, chicken, brown bread, rice and eggs.

Waisea’s favourite thing about being in the APDs is that he can build up his career. He says he always feels excited and ready to win before a match.

In his spare time, Waisea likes to fish, and he farms 10 acres of sugar cane.

Waisea has some words of wisdom to share with all of us at the TCRC: “Train hard, don’t give up, and respect your coach.”

Find it

• Asia Pacific Dragons,

• Tung Chung Rugby Club,