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East High Shakes Up Utah 7s

  • 03 Oct 2018

Photos courtesy Girls East High Rugby / view album

As the summer approached, Ally Samani turned to Liz Tafuna, and asked, “Are you ready to play rugby?” Tafuna, a current high schooler and rugby player, knew that future head coach Samani was really asking, “Are you ready to start a rugby team?” The duo got to work and committed to forming a club team under the East High School banner, and their work was recently rewarded with a first-place finish at the Utah Youth Rugby Fall 7s Series.

RELATED: Utah Youth Rugby HomepageWomen’s Rugby Scores: Sept. 28-30Support TRB: Donate Today!

“Originally when we started these conversations, we wanted to join the spring 15s competition, but we never imagined that we’d have such a great turnout for fall 7s, let alone be able to field Varsity and JV teams,” said Samani.

Samani credited Tafuna for taking to social media and creating a buzz for the Salt Lake City-based team. Twenty-three players came out to practices, and six of those athletes had rugby experience.

“I started putting myself through rugby coaching training and studying 5-7 hours a day, watching YouTube and film, learning the technical things and little odd rules and regulations,” said Samani, a former soccer player who was introduced to rugby through her high school son. “We’re super team-based as far as coaching. The experienced girls help a lot, and I have outside coaches who help me where I lack on the technical side of the game.”

The team started training at the end of June and met 3-4 times per week. Tafuna and Lupe Mamata emerged as captains and they helped forge a culture that rallied around “Respect, Attitude, Work Ethic,” or RAW, an acronym that is also the team cheer.

In the team’s very first outing, East Varsity finished second to perennial power United, dropping a 19-0 contest in the final. [View full results from Leg 1]

“We came in second and we didn’t want to come in second again,” Samani said. “Last week we really buckled down and tightened up a few things. We had struggled on support and conditioning, so we really focused on those drills, and it totally paid off on Saturday.”

Game-day captains rotate based on the previous week’s performance at training, and four total are named for Saturdays. For Leg 2, Tafuna and Mamata retained their leading roles on the Varsity team, and Kailei’a Tanielu-Samani and Mele Masina captained the JV team, which had to face United Varsity in the first game last weekend.

“They smashed us,” Samani said. “The Varsity girls wanted redemption from [Leg 1] but also for our younger sisters, who got beat so bad. We had something to prove and wanted to build back that team rapport.”

Tafuna and Mamata kept the two teams close throughout the day, running warm-up drills together and keeping morale high. The Varsity team went 3-0 through pool play, posting three shutouts against United JV, Wasatch Yellow and South Davis. United also went undefeated in pool play and eliminated its JV team in the Cup semifinals. East shut out Wasatch 31-0 for the final’s berth and rematch of the Leg 1 final.

“We knew we had the talent and heart to do it. We just needed to stay super disciplined and focus on our defense and support,” Samani said. “We also knew we had to stay humble and play in the moment, especially in 7s, which is so fast. We couldn’t get ahead of ourselves.”

The teams traded two tries apiece throughout the game, and with 40 seconds on the clock, Queenette Toomalatai scored the game-winner for the 17-12 victory.

“We all ran out on the field,” Samani replayed the final whistle. “And it was relief, because they worked so hard and it was well deserved. And United was super gracious afterward.

“It was great, but not just for the Varsity team but for the JV team as well,” the coach continued. “We practice together as one team, so that was a confidence boost for the whole family. Yesterday at practice, spirits were high and everyone believed we could do this. But they have to stay humble and work harder than ever now, because it’s hard to stay on top.”

There’s still plenty of 7s rugby left, and the field will resume Oct. 12-13 for Pink 7s, which integrates Colorado teams. Watch for Wasatch, as well, which is fielding two teams and finished third at both tournaments.

“They’re always a fun team to play – hard, smart, competitive, heavy hitters,” Samani said of Wasatch. “They’re a joy to watch and have an amazing coach.”

A champion will be named on Oct. 27, the fourth leg of the series, and all events occur at the Regional Athletic Center in Salt Lake City. For more information, visit

UYR 7s LEG 2


United 59-0 East JV

United 24-12 Wasatch Black

United 24-0 Brighton

Wasatch Black 36-12 Brighton

Wasatch Black 60-0 East JV

Brighton 27-0 East JV


East 37-0 United JV

East 32-0 Wasatch Yellow

East 52-0 South Davis

United JV 27-0 South Davis

United JV 17-12 Wasatch Yellow

Wasatch Yellow 20-0 South Davis


SF: United 34-0 United JV

SF: East 31-0 Wasatch Black

3rd: Wasatch Black 36-0 United JV

Final: East 17-12 United


SF: Brighton 24-22 South Davis

SF: Wasatch Yellow 27-10 East JV

3rd: East JV 30-0 South Davis

Final: Wasatch Yellow 12-10 Brighton

#EastHighSchool #UtahYouthRugby

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