Joe Lydon, the WRU's head of rugby development was almost a winner in the Middlesex Charity 7s as he guided the URLSamurai squad to the final of the competition last weekend.
Lydon was formerly England Sevens head coach and agreed to coach this side as a mark of respect to Colin Hillman who died recently and was heavily involved with rugby Sevens, both in Wales, with the Samurai and internationally.
The ULR Samurai squad had an enviable team sheet on Saturday when they played in the Middlesex Charity 7s in front of 18,000 fans at rugby's headquarters at Twickenham. Captained by former England 7s skipper Simon Amor, and coached by Lydon, the squad was made up of international sevens players from around the world. Despite having only one day to train and come together as a squad, the Samurai reached the final, losing out to London Irish.
Speaking after the final, coach Lydon heaped praise on his side despite the loss, "Of course we are disappointed but I am delighted with the heart and passion the players gave, especially in that final. We had two days to come together and were playing quality opposition. London Irish had a great side and played very well. They deserved to be in the final, as I think did we. It has been great to be involved with this squad of brilliant individuals and a pleasure to be back at Twickenham.
Hopefully we have done the ULR Samurai proud and more importantly, the memory of our great friend Colin Hillman who we played in honour of today."
in the opening round ULR Samurai beat Northampton Saints with Springbok Marius Schoeman scoring within the first minute of the Samurai being on the hallowed turf. Two more tries followed by Humphrey Kayange, the Kenyan 7s captain, and Willy Bishop meaning the Samurai recorded an opening win of 17 12.
Second up was a quarter final appearance against Leeds. Samurai improved upon their opening victory and looked to be coming together, showing some great displays of team work in the first half. Another try from Kayange, a couple by Collins Inerja, and an impressive team effort that saw Tony Roques cross the line meant the Samurai progressed to the semi finals, beating Leeds 26 12.
ULR Samurai faced Newcastle Falcons in the semi final of the Cup competition who included Simon Amor's former England 7s team mate Charlie Amesbury in their line up. The Falcons got the stronger start but Inerja came back followed by one from Julien Palmer to lead 14 5 at the break.
Amesbury scored in the second half narrowing the gap but another try from Inerja helped Samurai to a final 21 17 victory and a place in the Middlesex 7s final.
An impressive line up from London Irish stood in the way of the Samurai and their first Middlesex 7s victory with three of England's Armitage brothers on the pitch, as well as former England 7s regular Pete Richards.
Irish started well and led 19 0 at the break. An Irish sin bin early in the second half gave Samurai a chance to claw back and a quick succession of tries from Inerja, Bishop helped even things up along with a post whistle score from Peceli Nacamavuto. But time ran out for the Samurai and despite coming close and giving everything they had, it was a case of too little too late for the invitational side.
Captain Simon Amor summed up the dat by saying: "I am so tired its unbelievable - that was the first time I have played 7s since 2007 - but it was brilliant and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. To lose in the final is gutting, we just couldn't get the bounce of the ball but that's just the way 7s goes. It has been an absolute pleasure to play alongside the players in this squad. There are some wonderfully talented players and it has been a great experience."