Two new champions have been crowned after the Finals of the Bayleys National Sevens tournament in Rotorua today.
The Waikato Mooloos took down Wellington in an entertaining nine-try men’s Cup Final, while the Auckland women dominated defending champions Manawatu to claim their Cup Final, at Rotorua International Stadium today.
The Waikato men beat Wellington 38-19 in a feast of tries with men’s player of the tournament and crowd favourite, Luke Masirewa grabbing a double-try and the attention of All Blacks Sevens Coach Gordon Tietjens.
Masirewa was on fire all weekend, and proved to be the circuit-breaker his team needed as he punched through Wellington’s early 12-0 lead seven minutes into the first half. Masirewa thrilled Waikato supporters with a 60 metre runaway try that sparked a scoreless Waikato into life, and he promptly followed that with a second five-pointer, having slipped and stepped out of Wellington’s stunned defence.
That sparked a fantastic Waikato come-back who were up 14-12 at the break. Wellington scored another two tries in the second half, but the momentum was already lost as Waikato notched up four more tries with Dylan Collier and Declan O’Donnell both nabbing doubles.
In the ultimate grudge match, the women’s Final was a repeat of last year, with Auckland and Manawatu facing off having fended off semifinal challenges from Bay of Plenty and Waikato respectively.
Auckland came out steaming against the defending women’s champions Manawatu, making their intentions clear when they crossed four times in the first half having spent all but the first minute in Manawatu’s half.
A shellshocked Manawatu went to the break, down 24-0 but they bit back in the second half, working hard to finish for a couple of scoring opportunities that went begging.
Try scoring machine and women’s player of the tournament Kayla McAlister notched up the only second half try for Auckland and despite two late tries to Manawatu, the damage had been done, and Auckland claimed the title honours winning 29-14.
New Zealand Women’s Head Coach Sean Horan said he was delighted with the improved calibre of rugby from the women’s teams.
“If you look at the areas of growth, it’s in the skill component, and the way they are playing the game – they are getting fitter and faster. We’re starting to see different brands of the way the game is played, particularly in the contact area, defence systems, competitiveness and the overall fitness.
“We are seeing some real improvements from those Unions investing in this form of the game, and that’s probably told in today’s results. But the other unions are definitely showing signs of improvement and it won’t take much for them to catch up.”
Horan noted that McAlister in particularl, was in electrifying form in her first tournament after being out since mid-2014 with injury. The weekend’s tournament was her first competitive sevens rugby on her return, and despite being streaks ahead of anyoe else with pace, Horan said hew as excited that McAlister was still yet to reach her internatioal match fitness potential.
Horan is due to name his 2015 contracted squad this week, he said he now had some tough choices to make, after watching some great talent on display.
All Blacks Sevens Coach Sir Gordon Tietjens said he had been very impressed with how teams backed up yesterday’s play with good performances today.
“Waikato and Wellington were certainly the two best teams certainly on day two. A great, great Final. A lot of players were on show for me and some players, certainly in the Waikato side, stepped up in the Final to perhaps be a contender for my side.
“It was pleasing that some of the players backed up yesterday’s performance with a couple of good performances today. I thought that Luke Masirewa, who has been contracted to New Zealand before, played very, very well; had an exceptional Final which was probably the point of difference (making him player of the tournament). Also Dylan Collier – new to sevens – he’s an ITM Cup player for Waikato, and played extremely well. Isaac Te Tamaki, Johnathan Malo, Murphy Taramai (Wellington) – there’s a lot of good players out there who played exceptionally well over the weekend.”
Tietjens is looking to assemble a camp squad next week before finalising his team for the Wellington Sevens.
Two of the men’s minor Finals – Mid Canterbury v Canterbury, and Manawatu v North Harbour – were forced into extra time with golden points giving Canterbury the Shield, and North Harbour the Bowl. Taranaki easily despatched Northland in the Plate Final to win 22-7.
In the women’s minor Finals Otago kept out Southland to win 19-12 their Bowl Final while Wellington dominated Waikato 24-14 to win the Plate.
For full results go to www.nationalsevens.co.nz.