Wellington crowned men's National7s champions; Manawatu defend women's title

Getty Images     12 Jan 2014     Getty Images

Earlier, the Manawatu women’s side defended their title, putting Auckland away 19-12.

In the men’s final returning All Blacks Sevens player Ben Lam opened the scoring for Auckland, but Wellington struck back with a brace of tries, including two to All Black Sevens veteran Lote Raikabula to lead 19-5 at the break.

Auckland responded early in the second half and closed the gap to 19-17, but Wellington co-captain Greg Foe hit back with a converted try to seal the win.

“We have been working hard for these boys, but we didn’t think we were going to to do it,” said Waldrom who is in charge of the team for the first time.

“There is a lot of talent in this young group and they are pretty new to sevens so for them to do so well in their first tournament is amazing.”

Earlier, Auckland made the final despite a strong challenge from Northland who surprisingly thumped Canterbury 26 zip in the quarter finals.

The Aucklanders’ route to the final was nearly blocked by the Tomasi Cama coached Manawatu side in the quarters, with Auckland needing a golden point try in extra time to put squeeze past them 19-14.

Wellington also faced a tough route to the final, upsetting defending champions Taranaki 10-5 in their semi-final, and pipping Otago 24-19 in the quarter final.

Manawatu triumph again

The women’s final was a star studded affair with both teams boasting many in the New Zealand Women’s Sevens team. Manawatu raced to a 14 nil lead with tries to Hayley Hutana and Selica Winiata before Auckland struck back through Kayla McAlister and Linda Itunu followed early in the second half. But a smart kick and chase try from Winiata sealed the win for Manawatu with three minutes to go.

Captain Sarah Goss said; “I am so happy for the girls, they played awesome rugby. We put in a lot of hard yards over the summer, we did a lot of fitness training and we played as a team.”

Earlier, Manawatu dropped a game in pool play yesterday and needed two sharp tries from Winiata to help them squeeze past Otago in their quarter final today. However, they thumped Counties 24-5 to nail their final spot.

Auckland was in stand-out form all tournament, but faced a stiff test from Waikato in their semi-finals needing a last gasp try from IRB Women’s Sevens Player of the Year Kayla McAlister to seal their spot in the final.

Sevens coaches satisfied

All Blacks Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens was very pleased at the depth of talent on display over the weekend as he heads into camp with the team tomorrow.

“There are a lot of young coaches coming through and it’s great to see we are building depth as we head to the Olympics. I have seen a real improvement and seeing a young team like Wellington coming through and winning a bruising final is great.”

New Zealand Women’s Sevens coach Sean Horan was also pleased with the progress he saw over the weekend.

“Last year we had just six teams and Waikato, Manawatu and Auckland were a long way ahead of everyone else, but on day one you just saw Manawatu sneaking home, that sort of thing, so that’s a true testament to what the Provincial Unions are putting in place, the coaching staff and players.

“It’s still new, but what I have seen in the last two days has been pretty outstanding. The athletes are getting fitter and faster, the skill levels are getting better, hence the competition is getting better.”