“I want real, lasting, impactful change for women’s football. David John-Williams ran his campaign on the premise of bringing women’s football to the forefront of his candidacy to lead the TTFA. Why is the Women’s National Team used a sacrificial piece to enhance these men and their chauvinistic values?

“There is no need for nice words anymore; this is the truth. There is no more being silent.”

The following is Part One of a review of Trinidad and Tobago’s unsuccessful France 2019 Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign by goalkeeper Saundra Baron:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team goalkeeper Saundra Baron (back row, third from left) poses with her teammates before kick off against the USVI for a World Cup qualifier at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 19 May 2018.
(Copyright Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

I waited to give Wired868 this document, because I am entrusting you to give a true and honest story on the state of women’s football. I don’t care about Shawn Cooper, I don’t care about the Kennya “YaYa” Cordner drama, I don’t care about Lauryn Hutchinson’s video. I care about creating change for respect in our women’s football.

I hope you can help me create an open dialogue, so that the next Caribbean team that qualifies for a major women’s international football tournament is Trinidad and Tobago.

There are so many problems that are bigger than what happened in the CONCACAF tournament, and, yes, as embarrassing that campaign was, we must be proactive in creating a positive path forward for Trinidad and Tobago women’s football.

I have highlighted some injustices I have faced personally and opinions on decisions that have affected the growth of the women’s game. I spoke to team manager Jinelle James last week and she said no one has been paid from September or gotten their money from the last Concacaf Championship.

How do you expect to get more players to play for Trinidad when we cannot even depend on getting paid on time?

The last game against the USA was going to be boycotted but we eventually decided to play. Personally I wanted to play.

Being a foreign-based player, I do not have a first hand look at the inner workings of football in the country, and I never get to to see the good that those who care and value football in the country put forth to enhance the game from the grassroots level, secondary schools and beyond.

Photo: USA attacker Lindsey Horan (right) takes a crack at the Trinidad and Tobago goal during Concacaf Championship action on 10 October 2018.
(Copyright MexSport/Concacaf)

I can only speak on being a 12-year member of Trinidad and Tobago women’s football setup. I want real, lasting, impactful change for women’s football.

David John-Williams ran his campaign on the premise of bringing women’s football to the forefront of his candidacy to lead the TTFA. Why is the Women’s National Team used a sacrificial piece to enhance these men and their chauvinistic values?

There is no need for nice words anymore; this is the truth. There is no more being silent.

If anyone in the TTFA truly cared about women’s football that 2015 World Cup campaign would have been built upon, and sustained success would have come from women’s football in the country. That starts with the shortcomings of the last president and the one we have now. Nothing but corruption in our country is destroying the beautiful game.

First, I want to the address our pre-tournament training camp in North Carolina. The mood going into camp was always going to be one of uncertainty and under-preparedness; one that the TTFA helped create.

Right after the CAC Games no one had a plan in place, so we were barely prepared and apparently had to beg to even get our players flown into Jamaica [for the 2018 Caribbean Championship]. We barely had a full 11 for our first game [against Cuba]—we had 13 players with two goalkeepers—and that is on the TTFA. Kayla Taylor and YaYa came later to help strengthen the lineup; but we needed more depth and our bench was not going to cut it.

I believe we did not play our best in Jamaica and change needed to be made to our line-up and player pool to truly compete in the CONCACAF championships. But everything that happened after Jamaica was frantic.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Kennya “Yaya” Cordner tries to escape from Mexico player Veronica Perez during the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship.
(Copyright AFP 2016)

We were told we were going to have a camp in the States. So a week goes by and we heard nothing. I asked our manager what was going on and she said she would provide updates but still days would go by and we heard nothing.

As a player in another country preparing for the final round of World Cup qualifying with no updates, what do you expect us to do? Sit there and be happy about being underprepared?

I am way too much of a competitor to sit there and be happy about the TTFA’s bullshit. I personally had four different goalkeeper coaches from local club teams in my hometown of Rochester volunteer their time to help prepare me for the Concacaf tournament. Then I joined the other foreign-based girls in Richmond, Virginia at local teams there, which Lauryn arranged to help us.

I lifted weights on my own and did conditioning work on my own, because the TTFA effectively told the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Team: “You do not matter to us. We cannot wait until you all fail so we can be done pretending to give a shit about women’s football.”

I am not the only one who believes that football president David John-Williams was rooting for the women’s team to fail. I have not an ounce of respect for a man who does nothing to enhance his country’s game, which so many sacrifice for.

I am convinced that DJW was ready for the women’s team to just fail so he could be done with us.

I have never properly met the man. He showed up randomly to one practice I was at. There were no introductions, no gathering the team around to show support for us or to share words as we prepared for the summer tournaments we had to compete in.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (second from right) poses with then Women’s National Senior Team coaches (from left) Nicola Williams, Carolina Morace and Elisabetta Bavagnoli at a press conference in the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 1 February 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Not a word from our president? It was disgraceful. He is not a leader.

Many girls on this team quit paying jobs and turned down coaching positions to wear the red, white and black; and we still were treated with absolute disrespect from DJW and the TTFA. As much as it is an absolute honour to play for your national team, you cannot hold national team athletes hostage with inequality and a standard-less environment, that is clearly corrupted on all sides.

Ultimately it got to a point where Jinelle James had no answers or updates to provide for anyone.

It was honestly strange to us that before the CFU Challenge tournament [which was an exhibition series], they were flying in all the all the girls from North America to prepare. Yet for the most important Concacaf Championship tournament, they was no effort to get the team together to train; and foreign-based players were left in the dark as to what was going on while we heard that between five to seven girls were training in Trinidad under a different coach.

There was no damn stability at all.

We are worse off than we were four years ago in not only women’s football but in all football! Trinidad and Tobago should have been the first Caribbean women’s team to qualify for a World Cup; that’s why I came back!

I love football. It saved my life when I felt I had nothing and no one. I love the country I get to represent; it is my country too, no matter where I was born.

I am the daughter of Joffre Baron, a professional geologist from Belmont, and the late, Dr Shirley-Anne Haye-Baron—God bless her soul—a PhD bioinorganic chemist from Port of Spain.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Saundra Baron takes a spot kick during France 2019 World Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
(Copyright Matthew Lee Kong/CA-Images/Wired868)

If she was alive today, I know my mother would be standing next to me fighting for women’s equality in the country she loved and that she called home.

The following sentence describes our pre-tournament camp in Raleigh in a nutshell. If Concacaf gives you regulation fields to practice on with nets and goals, why would you choose to have the team walk to a recreation ground near our hotel that didn’t have field lines or goals—because they were chained up—to train on multiple occasions?

It was just one example of the unprofessional approach to our preparation. How do you expect a goalkeeper to train without a goal behind them?

And that’s not to mention the fact that we didn’t go over set pieces once until the day before the USA game—and again we used the recreation field with no goals or lines. I wish I was making this stuff up, but unfortunately I’m not.

Our camp in Raleigh was insanity. It was basically a whole new staff. Our goalkeeper coach had changed, Cooper was in charge and Dernelle Mascall was the assistant. Cooper had changed completely from the person he was at the Caribbean Championship in Jamaica. Two words: power trip.

First off, I understand our usual goalkeeper coach, Ross Russell, has a commitment to the men’s programme; but I wasn’t even notified that he wasn’t coming. He was the only one who I had trained with since April.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team coaching staff (from left to right) Ross Russell, Stern John, Stuart Charles-Fevrier and Dennis Lawrence stand for the national anthem before a World Cup qualifier against USA at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Denver, Colorado on 8 June 2017.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

They brought in Jason Sheppard, who had never worked with me and had only worked with Kimika for two weeks prior. So why was the women’s team not assigned a goalkeeper coach for the duration of our campaign, who would then be able to train, coach and evaluate us properly?

By the end of the tournament, I had genuine respect for Coach Sheppard; but he had never coached at the national team level and the way it was handled was unfair to everyone. But once again, this is Trinidad and Tobago football; nothing can operate professionally and consistently.

Mascall had not been on staff for any tournament prior to our most important one and all of a sudden she was on the bench. I personally like Mascall a lot; she was my teammate and is on track to be an amazing coach for our country. But that was the wrong timing for such a drastic move to happen and the excuse that she knew the players was not a good enough reason to do that.

We should have never been in a where we had three different head coaches and in such a short space in time. I don’t believe we put anyone in a position to succeed when things like that happen.

Cooper wasn’t in a position to succeed either—let’s be honest—but that has a lot to do with line-up decisions, the strength of our player pool, and I think grudges. Also the player/coach situation was baffling. What credible national team programme has a player coach?!

That was laughable and unprofessional. Who is going to respect that structure?

The excuse that those decisions were to assist Cooper in identifying talent on the team is totally unacceptable—because favouritism was immediately a factor.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago captain Tasha St Louis (right) holds off Grenada defender Treasher Valcin during 2019 World Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 27 May 2018.
(Copyright Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

I think if any of our opponents found out we had a player/coach, they would have laughed in our faces. Does our Men’s Senior Team have a player/coach? But we had an active player/coach who played with us and then sat down with the coaches.

How would that ever sit right with the rest of the team?!

Let me set the record straight, I have nothing against Ayana Russell. I respect her always and forever will. She is also a mother and she dedicated years of service to this national team. But the decision to name her as a player/coach created a circus within our team.

Cooper also set a poor tone when his introduced himself to the camp. It was brash and cold. He basically made everything about him and what he went through in Trinidad; and then he tried to flip a story on Randy Waldrum.

No player reached out to Randy Waldrum to get him to coach us. We actually were on board with Cooper coaching us, after having him in Jamaica. If we couldn’t have Anton Corneal, we preferred to have someone who at least was with us; and Cooper was actively involved in sessions in Jamaica and brought a good, uplifting attitude to our games and practices.

Sure when girls found out Randy had applied for the job for the future, we were excited and stoked to have back the man who cared for us dearly and who cared dearly about the development of the game in our country. But Cooper lost the respect of a lot of the team on day one with his selfish speech and digs at Randy.

I was shocked at his rant. I couldn’t believe this was the same man from Jamaica. That whole introductory speech was: “let me puff my chest out and show who is the boss.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago women’s coach Shawn Cooper shows his frustration during TTSL action for QPCC against Guaya United in Guayaguayare on 5 August 2018.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

Look I understand he was thrown in a mess of a situation surrounding his status as our coach, and with no camp either to prepare us; but I just wished he came off differently. I don’t know what he went through but he made everything more difficult.

I give him credit in one regard. He said he was a different type of ‘leader’ to Anton—and he was. But that was such an off-putting way to start an already tumultuous campaign.

I don’t want coaches to baby players. I have been a coach for three years and I am hard on my players as well. I am a very intense individual who wants realness and facts; but I have had coaches who captured that without the stance Cooper took.

I will never know and understand how that the video Lauryn released might have affected him and our local-based teammates, so I must have empathy towards that.

I can never put myself in their shoes, and releasing that video was debated. The foreign-based girls—Jo Cato was born in Trinidad but now lives in America—were in a group chat just trying to get answers on how to prepare for this important Concacaf Championship. As time went by and we were two weeks away from the tournament and knew nothing about the status of our pre-tournament camp or coach and were pissed off about embarrassing ourselves at the tournament, Lauryn released the video.

I had made the social media posts about ‘Equality, Respect, and Unity’ a couple days before the video went out but we wanted to wait to see if we heard anything about a camp.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago player Jonelle Cato uses Instagram to urge the TTFA to support the Women’s National Team.

In the end, we pulled the trigger and asked for help to get a camp and bring the team to Richmond; and we demanded respect from the TTFA. I created the hashtag #IStandWithTTWSW and sent images to the full team in a group chat, and most players shared them on their social media platforms.

I was so proud of my Trinidad and Tobago teammates for joining that fight because they had been abused for so long by the national team structure. I was so proud that they wanted to fight publicly because, as you know, when you fight publicly in Trinidad you get blackballed.

The girls and women in the country deserve so much better, and it shouldn’t have to come to social media videos for us to get the respect and preparation a national team deserves.

Of course some did not want to share the materials; but, hey, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I felt was allowed to be pissed off at the TTFA, pissed off at the board nonsense about who was going to be our coach, pissed off at how the TTFA takes no blame or accountability for destroying the beautiful game in our beautiful country.

Let’s be honest, nothing was going to happen for our women’s team if Lauryn didn’t release the video. We would have been flown into North Carolina with nothing. But then that happened anyway.

We got to our first practice session in taxis, which was so embarrassing. How unprofessional is it that we we can’t arrange proper team transportation.

Everything is always so last minute and never done with any respect for the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Team.

Photo: Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe (centre) meets the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team in September 2018.
(Copyright MYSA)

Editor’s Note: See Wired868 on Monday 10 December for Part Two of our 2019 Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign review with Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Saundra Baron, where she discusses the inter-team politics and compares the Women Soca Warriors setup to Jamaica’s “Reggae Girlz.”

More from Wired868

It is true that one person’s illegal or uncaring behavior can spoil another person’s rights.

If you walk your dog in a nice park, and then neglect to pick up the dog’s waste, the park may be closed to all dog owners. Because one person was inconsiderate and unthinking about consequences, every dog owner suffers. That is how laws and rules often come about sometimes.

If a gun owner loans someone their gun and it is used in an illegal act, that gun owner should to some degree be held responsible. If you loan your car to someone not inquiring whether that driver has a driver’s license, and they have an accident, who is held responsible? The car owner!

The right to bear arms is a wonderful freedom for those who require a gun for a legitimate reason. Law enforcement, hunting, protection and target shooting are legal, I believe. All very nice, but unfortunately there are not enough laws, restrictions or codes in place to help guide and protect people in our country.

Other countries, smaller than the USA, have gun laws and requirements in place, and they are enforced. England and Australia have good gun laws.

How heartbreaking for the loved ones of Lauren McCluskey to not be able to find some kind of justice, or at least some kind of future assurance that guns and some people who own them will be found accountable in the future. To at least find laws in place soon that would prevent so many more killings by guns.

Marlene Lundquist, Sandy

Everywhere President Trump looks, there are Democrats targeting him, from New York to Washington to Maryland, in the positions of lawmakers, prosecutors, state attorneys general, opposition researchers, bureaucrats and activist defense lawyers.

They are aiming at Russia collusion, the Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, a Trump hotel, Trump tax returns, Trump campaign finances and supposed money laundering.

“The relentless assaults on this president from every front were previously unimaginable and absolutely unprecedented,” said Sidney Powell, a Texas appeals attorney whose book, “License to Lie,” takes on Justice Department corruption. “The ‘resistance’ has sunk to a new low which I hope they live to regret. They truly became ‘creeps on a mission to destroy the President.’”

Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday, “It’s called Presidential Harassment!”

All the while, what conservatives consider the most hostile press toward a president in modern times has fed the Russia collusion flames with hundreds of stories — some of them bogus. The right-leaning Media Research Center analyzed NBC, ABC and CBS evening newscasts and found that 90 percent of their Trump stories were negative.

Last week, NPR stepped back from a report that Donald Trump Jr. misled Congress in his testimony on an aborted Russian hotel deal. WikiLeaks and Paul Manafort emphatically denied an unconfirmed Guardian newspaper report that the former Trump campaign manager met with Julian Assange in London three times. WikiLeaks published Democratic Party emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.

The network of Democrats and Democrat-aligned forces going after Mr. Trump is widespread and well-funded. It includes:

⦁ Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The conservative press has documented the Democratic donors on Mr. Mueller’s staff. Often mentioned is Andrew Weissmann, a Democratic contributor and cheerleader of the resistance inside the Justice Department. He attended what was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s presidential victory party in New York.

Jeannie Rhee, another lead prosecutor, represented the Clinton Foundation as well as Mrs. Clinton in lawsuits. Inside the Justice Department, she was an adviser to former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., a partisan Trump critic who is mulling a presidential run.

Conservatives say Ms. Rhee’s background should be treated as a conflict of interest because much of the investigation deals with how Russia tried to sabotage the Clinton campaign and whether the Trump team helped. Conservatives say there is another conflict: The FBI has relied on Clinton-financed opposition research known as the dossier.

Ms. Rhee has donated $16,000 to Democrats since 2008, Federal Election Commission records show. She gave the maximum $5,400 to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign in the 2015-16 election cycle.

⦁ Rep. Adam B. Schiff. With unilateral subpoena power, the California Democrat in January takes over the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He has been a big booster of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. His work on the dossier was financed by the Democratic National Committee as well as Mrs. Clinton’s team.

Mr. Schiff has promised renewed vigor in investigating Mr. Trump. His agenda includes inquires into whether Russian money was laundered through the Trump Organization. He will also look again at Russian collusion, for which the Republican majority exonerated the Trump campaign. Other incoming House Democratic chairmen also plan committee inquiries of Mr. Trump, including subpoenas.

⦁ Τηε U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Mr. Mueller farmed out to New York the politically sensitive job of investigating Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Prosecutors have dived in, with senior prosecutor Thomas McKay criticizing the president in court.

Mr. McKay worked under then-U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, a former legal aide to Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. Mr. Bharara refused to resign after thinking he had a deal to stay. Mr. Trump fired him in March 2017 and appointed a new U.S. attorney, who recused himself from the Cohen case.

Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws. He paid two women hush money that came from Mr. Trump, which in effect makes the president a participant in what federal officials said was an illegal deal.

Mr. Trump’s attorneys argue that the nondisclosure agreement was private, not an in-kind campaign donation. If it is a campaign donation, they say, it is legal because candidates can donate unlimited funds to their own campaigns.

⦁ New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood. The Democrat has gone to war against Mr. Trump and his family. She filed suit in June accusing the Donald J. Trump Foundation of “extensive and persistent violations of state and federal law.” She is seeking $2.8 million in restitution.

She called on the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission to also go after the Trump family. She named directors Donald Trump Jr.; Ivanka Trump; and Eric Trump. She said Mr. Trump used the charity’s money to pay off legal obligations, promote Trump hotels and purchase personal items.

Trump attorney Alan S. Futerfas filed a memo in New York Supreme Court rejecting the charges. He accused the attorney general of carrying out a political vendetta begun by Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in May over allegations that he abused a woman. Mr. Schneiderman was an adviser to the failed Clinton campaign.

“The NYAG himself — the head of the entity that brought this petition — solicited financial donations to his own campaign for re-election based on his promise to ‘lead the resistance’ and attack the president and his policies, describing the president as out to ‘hurt’ New Yorkers,” Mr. Futerfas said. “The NYAG, as an entity, has issued scores of press releases trumpeting its fight against the president.”

⦁ New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Former Trump attorney Cohen, who is cooperating with Mr. Mueller and the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, has met with state tax bureaucrats, according to his attorney’s court filing. Attorney Guy Petrillo said Mr. Cohen began cooperating after his guilty plea, suggesting that the focus is on Trump taxes. The taxation and finance department is part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration.

Mr. Cohen “has cooperated personally and through counsel and tax professionals with requests for information,” his court filing says.

The FBI raided Mr. Cohen’s files this summer and collected reams of documents related to the Trump Organization. Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to tax invasion by hiding income from his private taxicab business.

⦁ Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh. The Democrat issued sweeping subpoenas for all sorts of Trump business records, including his Trump International Hotel in the District of Columbia.

Maryland and the D.C. city government have filed suit claiming the president is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by profiting from foreign officials who stay in his hotels. The Trump Organization says it identifies profits from such guests and donates them to the U.S. Treasury.

Mr. Frosh has filed additional lawsuits, such as challenging Mr. Trump’s appointment of an acting attorney general.

⦁ Lanny Davis. The longtime Bill and Hillary Clinton loyalist is one of Mr. Cohen’s attorneys. He is active on the public relations front. He initially told reporters that Mr. Cohen testified that Mr. Trump was aware of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. Mr. Davis later retracted the claim.

Mr. Davis wrote a book suggesting that Congress consider removing Mr. Trump under the 25th Amendment because, the author argues, he is mentally incapacitated. In October, Mr. Davis announced that Mr. Cohen left the Republican Party and re-registered as a Democrat. Mr. Cohen says his campaign finance violations (paying money to two women) were the result of misplaced loyalty to Mr. Trump.

⦁ Michael Avenatti. The brash trial lawyer entered the political arena by taking up the cause of porn actress Stormy Daniels. The actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is one of two women who claim to have had affairs with Mr. Trump years ago. Mr. Cohen facilitated a $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford, which he said came from the president.

Mr. Avenatti sued Mr. Trump for defamation against his client and lost, meaning Ms. Clifford is liable for Mr. Trump’s six-figure legal bill. A separate lawsuit concerns the validity of the nondisclosure agreement for which Mr. Avenatti wants court-ordered depositions.

USA Today called the Clifford-Avenatti duo “a leading force of resistance against the president.”

Also on the legal front, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Mr. Trump over 100 times in his first 10 months in office, Business Insider estimated.

⦁ Mr. Bharara. From the sidelines, the former New York prosecutor is an active anti-Trumper on Twitter. In October, he suggested hat Mr. Trump would activate a presidential alert system to go after his political enemies.

“Serious question — what law prevents abuse of this new Presidential Alert? What law prevents POTUS from using it to attack a rival or promote himself?” he asked.

Some Democrats pushed him to seek the New York vacant attorney general job to go after Mr. Trump’s years of business in Manhattan. Liberal Vox.com called him a “leading voice of the opposition.”

At Vanity Fair’s 2017 “New Establishment Summit,” Mr. Bharara criticized Mr. Trump’s stand against illegal immigration and a ban on entry from some Muslim nations.

“I was born in India,” he said. “I’m going to try not to get deported.”

Mr. Bharara is among a cadre of former Barack Obama Justice Department officials who are on a mission to defeat Mr. Trump. They include Mr. Holder and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. She defied Mr. Trump’s Muslim ban order, to the cheers of Mr. Weissmann via an email disclosed by Judicial Watch.

⦁ Daniel Jones. A former senior staffer to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, Mr. Jones established the secretive investigative firm Penn Quarter Group. He met with the FBI last year and said he had raised $50 million from wealthy donors to investigate Trump-Russia connections, according to a bureau document. He said he hired Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS, which originally handled the former spy. Mr. Steele told a Justice Department contact that he was “desperate” to destroy Trump, according to an FBI document.

For some liberals, Mr. Trump is already guilty.

“In a saner world, there’d be no need to wait for Mueller,” said a Twitter post by Jonathan Rauch, an activist journalist and gay rights advocate at the Brookings Institution. “Nothing he finds will be worse than what we already know: this POTUS was elected and serves in violation of his oath of office. Pity we need prosecutors to tell us that.”

Mr. Rauch said in an email that the forces against Mr. Trump are “unprecedented and warranted.”

Ms. Powell, the Justice Department critic, expresses unease over the president’s predicament.

“President has accomplished more to benefit middle-class Americans than the last two or three previous administrations combined,” she said. “Imagine what he could have done if he had not been hamstrung by all the Mueller crap.”

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Olympic sevens champions Fiji returned to form in style in Cape Town to grab their first South African tournament title since 2005.

Gareth Baber’s Fijians won all six matches in Cape Town and were deservedly crowned champions on the back of a dominant 29-15 victory over the USA in the final.

The championship catapulted the Fijians to third place on the series standings after the first two events of 2018-19, just two points behind New Zealand – beaten semifinalists in Cape Town – and three back of early leaders the USA who have finished runnerup both times out.

It was a triumphant tournament for the Pacific Islanders who refound their best stuff as they marched through undefeated. They thumped Spain 46-7 in the quarterfinal, pipped South Africa 17-12 in a tight semifinal and then ran in five tries to roll past the Americans in a fast-paced final they dictated.

READ MORE:
* NZ bounced by Americans
Kiwis survive scare on day 1
All Blacks v Black Fern Sevens

Fiji were always in control in the final against the high-flying Americans who had turned the tables on Dubai champions New Zealand in the semifinal.

Player of the final Vilimoni Botitu and Kalione Nasoko grabbed a brace each and Sevuloni Mocenacagi also got on the scoresheet as the Fijians led 17-0 at halftime and 22-0 early in the second spell.

Ben Pinkelman mustered two second-half tries for the USA, but it was never going to be enough as Botitu and Nasoko completed their doubles to allow the island nation to cruise to a deserved victory.

“It’s been a long time coming, for the Fijians to win in Cape Town,” said coach Baber afterwards. “We were disappointed last week that we didn’t manage to perform to the level that we’ve done this week.

“We’ve had some battles, most notably South Africa in the semifinals, but all credit to the players and staff – they’ve manned up.”

The Fijians had led the hosts 12-5 in their semifinal after first-half tries to Botitu and Waisea Nacuqu, but the match went to the wire when a Rosko Specman try knotted the match at 12-12 in the 10th minute.

Supersub Alosio Naduva sealed the deal for the islanders when he crossed at the finish to secure passage to the final.

The Americans, who reversed their Dubai final defeat to New Zealand with a 31-12 semifinal victory, hope their second straight runnerup effort signals their intent to take on the big guns.

Fiji were crowned Cape Town Sevens champions after a runaway final victory over USA in the final.

GETTY IMAGES

Fiji were crowned Cape Town Sevens champions after a runaway final victory over USA in the final.

Danny Baker, who won try of the tournament for a blockbusting score against the Kiwis, said their victory over the New Zealanders showed what they’re capable of at this level.

“We didn’t get it done in the final but that was a mark of what we’ve put in in our entire off-season,” he said.

“To come back from what we did in Dubai to make two consecutive finals, it lets out a lot of frustration from the last couple of years. It’s a stepping stone – our goal is to be a top-four team and hopefully win it if we can.”

The series will resume in Hamilton on January 26-27.