Return of Orene Ai’i gives Christina Noble lift at Dubai rugby sevens

Legend at heart of his team’s veterans trophy triumph. Paul Radley reports from Dubai.

DUBAI // Normal service has been resumed. After a two-year sabbatical from winning the International Veterans trophy, Christina Noble were back on top of the Pitch 1 podium.

As ever, it had much to do with their recruitment policy. The children’s foundation side won the Dubai title for five consecutive years, a run that ended in 2011, and their contacts book was basically a who’s who of international rugby.

Then the rest caught up. Xodus Steelers usurped them with the services of a crew of former Scotland, South Africa and New Zealand Test players.

With J9 Legends and Joining Jack also on board in recent years, it is questionable whether Christina Noble feature the most-notable household names anymore, let alone the most trophies. Consider that sorted.

The key player in their success this weekend was Orene Ai’i, who was one of the dominant figures in the world sevens series not so long ago.

After only recently qualifying for veterans rugby, he was straight back into the old routine in Dubai, scoring two tries in a 29-14 win over J9, Joost van der Westhuizen’s charity side.

“It was good to be back out there again and it certainly brought back a few memories,” said Ai’i, who was the world sevens player of the year in 2005.

“It has been great to be a part of Christina Noble, playing with and against some of the best players in the world.

“After that final, the body is pretty sore. I was trying to last as long as I could, but it was fun.”

Elvis Seveali’i, the former Samoa international who was one of the survivors from the semi-final defeat to Xodus Steelers 12 months ago, said he was happy to avenge that result.

“We have a good bunch of lads here, which makes it enjoyable but it was definitely a better result than last year,” Seveali’i said.

“I think a lot of us were blowing after about three minutes and were saying to the bench, ‘Sub me off, sub me off.’

“It was good to get out there, not just to play in a final in front of a big crowd, but to play against people you played against 10 years ago.

“It is a great atmosphere here in Dubai and a lot of us just like to take it all in and reminisce about the old days.”

pradley@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 6, 2014 04:00 AM

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