New Zealand's Sevens party kicks off

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James Mortimer     10 Jan 2013     Getty Images

Two such iconic destinations in New Zealand underpins the festive atmosphere of the Sevens, and two fields at the local Blake Park entertained a healthy crowd as both Men and Women’s teams took part in the town that has the great Mauao looking proudly over it.

Blake Park is where the All Blacks Sevens and New Zealand Sevens Women's team recently trained together, part of the ongoing buildup towards to the next leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series in Wellington at the Hertz Sevens.

Twelve teams formed the men’s competition at the Bay of Plenty sport's ground, with Auckland winning the crown as best North Island team, beating Waikato 26-12 to cement their position as one of the favourites heading into Queenstown.

Women’s Sevens also showed its rapid growth with eight teams competing, with the New Zealand Women’s Sevens team now operating alongside the All Blacks Sevens as the countdown begins to the biggest party of all – the Summer Olympics.

The Waikato women defeated Counties Manukau 29-21 in the women's final.

Bay of Plenty, essentially the hosts of the tournament, entered two teams.

Head coach Dean Jennings told the that the two teams combined a likely full strength team alongside some hopefuls to give him an idea heading into this weekend.

"I was not too dissatisfied, to be honest, as a week out and you are still trying different things and we had different combinations in the teams that we don't necessarily have in our top team all together," Jennings said.

"We mixed and matched a bit so I was reasonably happy with how it went. There was competition for places before today and quite a few guys who were around the fringes put up their hand and played well, so it has given us a bit of a headache as to who to select."

Bay of Plenty Women’s coach Kevin Lee said the ladies were playing at higher levels, especially considering there was now a national team to aim towards.

"What we are seeing now is they are understanding the game of Sevens and they have lifted their level of Sevens considerably to where they are now provincially competitive,” Lee said.

"I am really pleased about the players' attitude towards rugby and what they want to achieve."

"Sean (Horan, the Women’s Sevens head coach) has given us the opportunity to play them when they come into camps on a regular basis. They have invited us to play two games on January 26 as part of their preparation for the next round of the world series, but as far as the development of Bay of Plenty women's rugby, it is not a one-off.

"They have sent me their whole programme and will play games against us before they go away to their next three or four tournaments. For our girls to look forward to that, and for us planning as coaches towards next year with the nationals in Rotorua in 2014, this is something to keep everyone enthusiastic and when I told the girls they were all buzzing about it.”