Taranaki broke a 30-year drought at the NZRU National Sevens with a 32-17 drubbing over North Harbour in the final at Queenstown. The 'Naki last won the title in 1982 in Feilding but put the record straight with a convincing six tries to two performance against the 2009 champions. Harbour had the consolation of having captain David Raikuna named Player of the Tournament and winner of the Joe Tauiwi Memorial Trophy. The 25-year old scored in the final, having picked up a double in the semi, and must be close to a recall to the All Blacks Sevens, or at least the New Zealand Emerging Players to be named by Gordon Tietjens tonight.
Nick Jordan in Queenstown with Maui Bay Estates.
Taranaki broke a 30-year drought at the NZRU National Sevens with a 32-17 drubbing over North Harbour in the final at Queenstown.
The 'Naki last won the title in 1982 in Feilding but put the record straight with a convincing six tries to two performance against the 2009 champions.
Harbour had the consolation of having captain David Raikuna named Player of the Tournament and winner of the Joe Tauiwi Memorial Trophy.
The 25-year old scored in the final, having picked up a double in the semi, and must be close to a recall to the All Blacks Sevens, or at least the New Zealand Emerging Players to be named by Gordon Tietjens tonight.
But Raikuna could only watch as Taranaki dominated territory and possession running out to a 27-0 lead.
Mark Atkins, with three tries including two in the space of a minute, Beaudin Waaka and Jackson Ormond gave the amber and blacks a commanding lead. Tevita Li, who at 17 must also be in Tietjens' sights, and Raikuna pulled the score back to 27-12 before Neemia Soqeta capped the display with barnstorming try in the corner.
Taranaki coach Willie Rickards said the start was critical.
"We kept the starting lineup together all day and they got us to 17-0 at halftime which obviously worked for us," said Rickards, who won the tournament as a player with Auckland in 2006. "We knew it would be hard for Harbour to come back from that and our guys showed plenty of character in the final. Everyone's hurting in a final so it's how much you want it really.
Taranaki lost to Bay of Plenty in pool play which the coach said came just at the right time.
"Bay of Plenty did us a favour yesterday as it showed us we were not as good as we thought we were. If we had gone through unbeaten on Day One we would have come in a bit complacent."
Indeed, Taranaki were unfancied given the lack of name players, with only Ormond and Warwick Lahmert having represented New Zealand, but the teamwork was evident throughout.
"There's been some comment that we don't have the players but I've always believed in the team and they have believed in themselves," said Rickards, who represented New Zealand between 2006-09. "Beaudin was a rock star at schoolboy level and this was his showpiece and he, Mark and hopefully others will push on to bigger things. We talked as a team about careers being launched here so if my players do get picked up they deserve it."
Taranaki made the final with a 17-7 win over hometown favourites Otago having earlier run away from Northland in their quarter-final, winning 27-10 after being up 22-5 at halftime.
Lahmert, with two, and Waaka were the scorers in the semi while captain Heiden Bedwell-Curtis was the best player in the quarter final victory, scoring a try and setting up another.
And three pieces of individual brilliance from Raikuna, and one from Li, had seen North Harbour make their first final since 2009.
Li started the semi final against Bay of Plenty with a blistering run down the left touchline to score, and Raikuna brushed aside the defence to score just before halftime, and late in the match. In between the Harbour skipper slipped several tackles to set up Jason Donnelly for a try.
Toby Arnold, the BOP team manager, said mistakes cost the side.
"We talked about Raikuna pre-match but you can't stop him when he plays like that. It was an awesome performance and I'm sure Titch is keeping a close eye on him."
The New Zealand Sevens playmaker said it was frustrating being on the sideline.
"I'm happy to be a manager later in life but I would definitely rather be playing," said the 25-year old who was injured at the Wellington Sevens a year ago. "Hopefully that's in June with the Sevens after that."
Meanwhile, Manawatu were just as dominant in the women's final, thumping Waikato 36-17 after earlier beating them 26-10 in the round-robin.
Two tries to captain Sarah Goss bookended touchdowns to Aimee Gilbert, Hayley Hutana, Wairakau Greig and a penalty try awarded by Jessica Beard for an early tackle on tournament MVP Selica Winiata.
"We came down here to win and I'm very glad we've done it," said Goss. "We were the underdogs and wanted to put them away early so I'm pleased we did.
"Shorty (Winiata) is amazing as she was injured but still played and scored two tries in virtually every game so we're happy to have her in our team."
Pre-tournament favourites Auckland bombed out losing to Manawatu 14-5 after an earlier loss to Waikato.
The Queen City's men's team, who were the top seed, fared no better losing to North Harbour 21-19 in the quarterfinal.
The defending champions, playing without injured captain Ed Cocker, led 12-7 at halftime and 19-14 late in the match but Samoan international Phil Tuigamala scored the winning try after a break from halfway. Li scored Harbour's other two tries.
Another rising star was Mason Walker who helped Bay of Plenty into the semis. The 17-year old showed his electrifying speed against Southland setting up a try for veteran Zar Lawrence that gave BOP a 21-19 leadand adding the icing on the cake with a late score.
Otago got into the last four with a hard-fought 21-7 win over Wellington. It promised to be an even encounter and at 7-7 at halftime it lived up to that.
Matt Faddes scored two tries in the second term, the first from a kick and chase and the second courtesy of a fabulous cross-field kick from Brad Weber.
The action in front of a healthy 4500 crowd brought the curtain down on a decade of good times in the resort town.
"We're very proud of what we've achieved in the 10 years but today is tinged with a little sadness," said Clark Frew, Chairman of the Organising Committee. "All of the tournaments have been special, however this one stands out for the great corwd that has come through the gate, the weather which has bene kind and the standard of play, including the women for the first time here.
"The great thing about here was the location, as we're in the centre of Queenstown and the crowd really interacts with the players from being so close to the action. The players love it and you can be sitting on the bank, pop into a cafe for a bit of lunch and pop back.
Bay of Plenty will host the tournament in 2014 and 2015 with a two-year right of renewal and Frew hopes it achieves the same heights.
"It would be a shame if it doesn't work in Rotorua as the tournament needs to be a real success to help New Zealand achieve two gold medals in Rio.
North Harbour 21 Auckland 19
Bay of Plenty 28 Southland 19
Taranaki 27 Northland 10
Otago 21 Wellington 7
North Harbour 24 BOP 14
Taranaki 17 Otago 7
Taranaki 32 North Harbour 17
Auckland 26 Southland 12
Wellington 22 Northland 14
Auckland 40 Wellington 20
Tasman 34 Wairarapa Bush 0
Counties-Manukau 12 Manawatu 17
Waikato 19 Canterbury 7
Hawke's Bay 47 South Canterbury 0
Manawatu 36 Tasman 7
Hawke's Bay 35 Waikato 12
Hawke's Bay 40 Manawatu 7
Counties-Manukau 36 Wairarapa Bush 19
Canterbury 29 South Canterbury 10
Counties-Manukau 27 Canterbury 12
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