Waikato and Counties Manukau won the respective men’s and women’s competitions at the Northern Region 7s tournament in fine, breezy conditions at Memorial Park in Cambridge on Sunday.
Waikato beat Northland 31-17 to win the men’s final and Counties Manukau bested Bay of Plenty 31-19 in the women’s final, to see both winning teams qualify top from their zone for the nationals in Rotorua on 14 and 15 January.
All six teams in the Men’s side of the draw qualified for Nationals. The seedings for Rotorua are:Waikato (1), Northland (2), Bay of Plenty (3), Auckland (4), Counties Manukau (5), North Harbour (6)
The four Women’s teams that qualified for the 12-team Nationals are: Counties Manukau (1), Bay of Plenty (2), Waikato (3) and Auckland (4)
A long period of continuity led to Northland scoring the first try of the final through Noah Cooper, for an early 5-0 lead.
Waikato replied through Atu Masirewa, after taking a quick tap penalty and ghosting through a ruck, before recent recruit Zac Guildford scored for them again to double their lead to 14-5 at halftime.
Melville flyer Sevu Reece raced clear from a ruck to score in the corner to score the first try of the second half, extending the lead to 19-5.
Bu Northland struck back with a try to captain Whiria Meltzer, after a charge at the line and offload by Matt Matich.
With Northland back on attack, Guildford showcased his defensive skills with a ruck turnover that led to a runaway converted try to Josh Gordon, putting the match beyond the Taniwha’s reach.
Loius Rogers sealed the final result in Waikato’s favour with a try on the far side of the field. Trying to the end, Dan Wells crossed for Northland on fulltime to make the final score 31-17.
Earlier, Waikato and Bay of Plenty met twice in an hour in the afternoon session. In the first game, Zac Guildford was the player of the match with his support play and setting up their first three tries in the 31-7 victory.
In the semi-final that followed, Reece opened the scoring after a frantic opening to the contest. Guildford scored a second try and Waikato skipped out to 12-0 at the turn.
Jesse Parete galloped over under the bar after a lovely run by Issac Te Aute to close the gap to 12-7, tries to Reece and Ratuya Tanuyara pushed Waikato out to 26-7 and propelled them into the final.
After beating North Harbour 22-5, Auckland met their match in the Northland Taniwha in the second men’s semi-final, Northland scoring two tries in each half to win 24-10.
Captain Tutu Tairea scored first for Auckland, but recent NZSS hammer throw champion Scott Gregory scored one and set up another try to give them a 12-5 lead. Sam Livingston completed an end to end move on halftime for Auckland. Gregory and Matt Matich raced in for second half tries to seal the win for the Taniwha.
In the playoff for third and fourth, Bay of Plenty beat Auckland 29-17. Defending national champions Counties Manukau claimed fifth place by beating North Harbour 29-7.
Women’s finalists Counties Manukau and Bay of Plenty both went into the decider unbeaten.
After an early period on defence, BoP’s Autumn Stephens showed both power and pace in sprinting away to score the first try of the final.
Portia Woodman scampered in to score in reply for Counties-Manukau.
Badinlee Munroe-Smith scored again for Counties-Manukau, but Koroia Heyblum burst through a gap from 70 metres away for Bay of Plenty to lock the scores up at 12-12 at halftime.
Counties Manukau exploded into the second half, Hazel Tubic on the shoulder of Portia Woodman to put them back in front, 17-12.
Tubic and Portia Woodman swapped roles two minutes later, Tubic offloading to Woodman for the try that extended thir lead to 24-12.
But BoP repied with a runaway try from the kick-off through schoolgirl Parekura Whareaorere, converted to close the gap to 24-19.
But Woodman picked up a loose ball and powered past two defenders to seal the final for Counties Manukau.
First half tries to Portia Woodman and Tubic carried Counties Manukau to a 14-0 lead over Auckland in their semi-final. Woodman and Tubic both scored again after halftime, giving the Heat a 26-0 win.
Counties Manukau had also beaten Auckland 26-5 in first match of the day.
Bay of Plenty outscored Waikato two tries to one to lead 12-7 in the second Women’s semi-final. But it was all on when Waikato scored through Tenika Willison immediately after the break to tie it up at 12-12.
From a turnover, Sapphire Tapsell ran 80 metres to put the Volcanix back in front, before making a try saving tackle after a Waikato break. Schoolgirl Parekura Whareaorere scored the match-winner, and Bay of Plenty won 24-12.
Waikato beat Auckland 19-5 in the playoff for third and fourth, while North Harbour beat Northland 40-7 in the playoff for fifth and sixth.