Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the Carib Tobago Rugby 7s Tournament in Tobago with the Samurai Beavers.
The tournament was a fantastic experience – not only because it allowed me to exchange the cold and grey English skyline with sunny 30 degree weather for week – but because it featured a fantastic elite sevens competition in a beautiful and relaxed country.
The highlight of the experience was the Carib Beer Beach Parties (with free beer in the sea), Christmas Carol Singing Welcome Party, the Goat Racing Fiesta and the opportunity to meet and play local national sides like Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, Guyana, Cayman Islands, Barbados and Mexico.
The tournament has increased in size from 12 to 32 teams in just the past year alone, so it is likely that the tournament organisers, Baxter’s Limited, will be looking to expand the tournament next year and welcome even more foreign teams.
If you are looking to take part in a unique high level rugby 7s competition in December of next year, this tournament is definitely worth considering.
The tournament featured some impressive men’s and women’s elite sides from North America, South America and Europe.
Experienced referees were flown in from England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, US, New Zealand, Bermuda and Trinidad and Tobago, which also contributed to making the tournament a great success.
The final came down to the Esher Golden Lions and the New York City 7s.
Although Esher had beaten New York earlier in the competition, they struggled in the final against the New York side, which featured players from the USA Northern Olympic Development Academy (NRODA) that had recently competed in the World Club Championship at Twickenham.
The final score was 21-12 to New York City with Esher only managing to score two tries by Charlie Gossington and Jamie See.
“We showed great character to come back from 0-12 down in both the semi-final and the final against quality foreign opposition,” said Steve Lewis, NRODA Director of Coaching.
The NY City 7s team’s top try scorers throughout the tournament were Derek Lipscomb and Jared Collinson.
The women’s competition featured 16 teams, which included the Maple Leafs (Canadian National Team), Rugby Ecosse (Scotland), Atlantis (USA), Barbados, Cayman Islands National Team, Guyana National Team and the Mexican National Team.
Although the Samurai Beavers won second place at the tournament last year, only losing to the Scottish side, Rugby Ecosse, neither teams were able to repeat last year’s success due to strong North American competition.
Prior to Tobago, the Canadian women were coming off a fourth place finish at the Women’s Sevens World Series in Dubai, so the Americans faced tough competitors.
The final score of 52-12 to the Maple Leafs reflected the experience of the Canadian side, which produced great tries from Paige Farries, Hannah Darling, Elissa Alarie, Frederique Rajotte, Chanelle Challenger and Charity Williams and included newcomer 17-year-old Jamie Beck.
The Maple Leaf’s finished the tournament with an unbeaten record and took home the coveted US$5,000 prize.
One thing to note was the prize money that the tournament allocated to the women’s competition. Whilst the men’s prizes were nominal sums of US$50, US$25, US$15 and US$10, the tournament showed real commitment to expanding and recognising the women’s game.
Maple Leafs took home US$5,000 as the tournament winners, Atlantis took home US$2,500 as the losing finalists, 3rd place winners Rugby Ecosse took home US$1,500 and 4th place winners Dog River Howlers took home US$1,000.
Aside from the high level competition, the tournament featured a well-run social calendar, which provided a great environment for teams to bond and have a good time.
The tournament sponsors, Carib, were also there to welcome us in their own way with some free Carib beer! This was a great start to the week and an opportunity for us to mingle with some of the other rugby teams.
After a very short bus ride to our apartments, we walked to the beach to take part in the Carib Cool Off, where our team was provided with a cooler of Carib beers, which we took out into the sea with us. This hospitality continued throughout the tournament and contributed to the sociable atmosphere off the pitch.
After our training session and a dip in the sea the following day, all of the teams gathered together for the Christmas Carol Singing Session, which had become an annual tradition at the tournament.
Each foreign team was expected to sing three Christmas Carols of their choice and the Samurai Beavers did not disappoint by showing off their diversity with a traditional rendition of “Silent Night” followed by a Dutch Christmas song.
The ladies continued to impress on the dance floor by being the first ones in and last ones out – something that became reflective of the Samurai Beavers’ spirit throughout the tournament.
Other teams that impressed included Harvard RFC, with its silent rendition of “Silent Night” and the New York City 7s, which were quite a hit with the ladies of the tournament following their confident performance.
On Friday morning, we had the opportunity to practice some of our rugby 7s skills against a very talented Canadian Maple Leafs side. The team featured players from the Canadian National 7s Squad, which included Jen Kish, Frederique Rajotte and Megali Harvey.
After a quick dip in the pool following our training session, all of the teams were invited to participate in the Carib Rugby Grand Goat Racing Fiesta in Buccoo.
Spectators were invited to bid for goats and then nominate someone to run with the goat in a race.
Race participants were given little information or time to prepare, which led to some hilarious wipe out moments down the track (including both one of our players and our coach falling before the finish line).
Teams then reunited for the Sea Water Sunset Cool Down with free Carib for all players in the sea.
Saturday & Sunday
The tournament kicked off with a minute of silence for Nelson Mandela. There was certainly a buzz around the place and everyone was very keen to start playing.
On Saturday teams gathered in the evening for a Sea Water Sunset Cool Down at Store Bay Beach with free Carib for all players in the sea. This time most teams took it easy on the as they had another big day of 7s ahead.
The tournament concluded with festivities at the Shade Nightclub in Bon Accord where trophies and prizes were presented.
The Samurai Beavers were disappointed not to have received a trophy despite winning the Calabash Cup and even more upset not to have received the “most sociable team of the tournament” award, but still had a great time dancing the night away nevertheless.
The tournament ended with one final Carib Beach Party at the Store Bay Beach, which included free food and beer for all teams to enjoy.
Although the tournament is far for many European teams, the cost of the tournament was actually a lot cheaper than I expected.
I was able to find very reasonably priced flights from London to Tobago for about £450 and the cost of accommodation, team entry and kit was less than £200.
Upon arrival, my expenditure was minimal. Everything is extremely cheap for foreigners in Tobago. For example, you could get a hot dog for £.60p or a nice three course dinner for £10. So, my biggest expense was actually water (which costs about £.50p/bottle), which I purchased several times per day to stay hydrated.
So whilst this is not a cheap tour location, it is very possible to do the tour for under £800 per player – and with a bit of sponsorship money this cost can be lowered even further.
The Samurai Beavers brought two teams to the tournament with 19 players of diverse backgrounds ranging from the Dutch National 7s and 15s squads, the Czech Republic 7s team, former England 15s and elite players from New Zealand, Canada and the US.
The Beavers A team made it into the Championship round and Beavers B Team won the Calabash Cup final. We look forward to returning next year to win back our trophy!
If you are interested in sponsoring the Beavers, please contact Lee Bennet at email@example.com.