Dragons fire warning to World Tens Series rivals
Asia Pacific Dragons head coach Toutai Kefu has warned rivals his side are only going to get stronger after laying down a marker in the World Tens League, finishing the first day of the second round with a faultless record.
Dragons climbed into second-place, just a point adrift of top spot, after beating Phoenix 27-5 and Ohio Aviators 20-16, as well as being awarded a 6-0 victory from their game with SX10, who were again forced to sit out of action, having not been released in time from their Covid-19 protocol isolation.
With pivotal fixtures against London Royals and Rhinos, the teams immediately above and below them, among their three scheduled fixtures today, Kefu, a World Cup winner with Australia in 1999, has warned his side have room for improvement.
“We’re continually gelling as a team and the more we play the better we are going to get,” said the former Tonga head coach, whose side sit just a point adrift of Royals in the standings.
“All the teams here are pretty even with everyone beating one another, but fortunately we picked up all three victories and hopefully we can carry that into tomorrow [Tuesday].
“Momentum and confidence are going to be key in this tournament. If you keep winning, it builds the confidence and with it that momentum continues to grow.
“For us it is all about building as a team and strengthening those combinations on the field. We are all learning this format of rugby as a team and that means we can only get better.”
Momentum could also prove key for Phoenix, who finished the day by picking up their first victory of the tournament, overcoming Miami Sun in a hard-fought 5-0 success.
While, they may have suffered defeats in their first two encounters of the day, following up the loss to Dragons by going down 22-0 against Aviators, head coach Braam van Straaten could not hide his delight after ending the day on a high.
“I’m really stoked for all of the players,” said Van Straaten, who represented South Africa in 21 Test matches between 1999 and 2001. “To pull of a win against a very good Miami Suns team is magnificent; it made my day.”
He added: “We are a young squad, but having got our full strength back I think you will see the real Phoenix from now on. That victory will give us a lot of confidence and sets us up really well for tomorrow [Tuesday].
“We are starting to gain an understanding between us. How fantastic must it be to feel the exhilaration of a first victory in a tough tournament like this?
“What a day. To see that sparkle in the boys’ eyes and smiles on their faces right now is what it is all about.”
Overall, it proved a day of surprising results and mixed fortunes for most of the remaining sides.
Rhinos, who came into the second round top of the standings on the back of a perfect record, were brought back to earth with a thud after back-to-back defeats. They lost 11-10 against Aviators before going down 12-0 to nearest rivals London Royals, who seized top spot.
Rhinos ended the day in third place, four points adrift, although they hold a game in hand over both Royals and Dragons.
That victory for Royals saw them bounce back from a 15-11 defeat by Miami in the day’s opening game, while they were also awarded a 6-0 default victory over the absent SX10.
The table remains perfectly poised heading into today’s final day of the World Tens League, which will conclude after another four sessions of matches.
The team with most points after the completion of today matches will not only be crowned World Tens League champions but will also seeded No 1 and receive a bye through to the semi-finals of the World Tens Series Cup, a knockout play-off format taking place on Saturday.