Above: The Wellington men's team after winning the Central 7s on Saturday. Photo credit: Andy McArthur.
Wellington and Manawatu won the respective men’s and women’s finals at Saturday’s Central Region qualifying tournament at in Levin.
Wellington defeated Manawatu 17-7 to claim victory in the men's final and Manawatu overcame Wellington 26-5 to win the women’s final.
The unbeaten Manawatu women won a three-peat of titles in this tournament, while the Wellington men also won all their matches in a successful outing on a warm, breezy afternoon at Playford Park.
The five men’s teams that qualified for the Nationals in Rotorua on 3 and 14 January were Wellington (seeded 1 for Nationals), Manawatu (2), Taranaki (3), Hawke’s Bay (4) and Wanganui (5)
Wanganui beat Wairarapa Bush in the all-important playoff for 5th and 6th on field two. These two teams had already fought out a 5-5 draw on the same field earlier in the day. Home team Horowhenua-Kapiti and Poverty Bay were the two teams that finished seventh and eighth.
The Women’s side of the draw operated a five-team round-robin with a straight final, with one team to miss out.
Manawatu were a cut above the others, including earning 50-point wins over Poverty Bay and Taranaki, but it was these latter two sides whose match against each other ultimately decided their fates. Poverty Bay held a slender lead heading into fulltime as Taranaki launched a late raid only to spill the ball forward in the corner going for the winning try to miss out.
The four teams that qualified for Nationals from the women’s side of the draw were Manawatu (1), Wellington (2), Hawke’s Bay (3) and Poverty Bay (4).
Men’s champions Wellington’s road to the title saw them beat Horowhenua Kapiti 33-5 first up, then defeat Manawatu 26-0 (Romu Senileba hat-trick of tries), defeat Poverty Bay 41-0 (Esi Komaisavai hat-trick) and take out Hawke’s Bay 35-5 (Dan Schrijvers hat-trick) in their semi-final.
The two men’s semi-finals were contrasting encounters. The first saw Wellington belt to a 21-0 lead at halftime over the Magpies, before Schrijvers skipped away for his third try early in the second half to make it 28-0. Hawke’s Bay came back with a try but Ratu Komaisavai added the icing at the end for Wellington.
The second semi-final was a thriller that was decided in extra time. Manawatu started strongly, scoring two quick tries to take a 12-0 lead. This almost became 17-0 but a desperate tackle in the corner won Taranaki a reprieve and they counter-attacked from 95 metres to score a key try to close the deficit to 7-12 at halftime. Turning around, Manawatu scored their third try to extend their lead to 19-7, but Taranaki came back to score two tries to level it all up at 19-19 on fulltime. In extra time, Manawatu got back down inside Taranaki’s 22, won a penalty and slotted a dropped goal penalty to win 22-12.
Taranaki won the men’s playoff for third and fourth over Hawke’s Bay. A close match saw Taranaki overcome two injury breaks to their own players to score on halftime to level 12-12, before scoring twice more in the second spell to win 22-12.
The Women’s final saw Wellington captain Kat Simpkins score first, but Manawatu held their nerve to come back with two tries and lead 12-5 at halftime. Manawatu then scored twice more in the second half to prevail 26-5. Chrystal Mayes scored two tries in the final.
Simpkins had also scored Wellington’s only try when the two teams had met in their round-robin match. Manawatu had led 15-0 at halftime, with Selica Winiata as prominent as her dazzling orange boots, and Sarah Goss coming down from the commentary box to help the way, going on to win 22-7.
For Wellington, their other results saw them beating Poverty Bay 27-0 first up on field two, beating Hawke’s Bay 22-5 and defeating Taranaki 28-0.
Meanwhile, Tasman (Men’s) and Canterbury (Women’s) won the Southern Sevens at Timaru, while Counties Manukau (Men) and Waikato (Womens) won the Northern tournament in Cambridge.
4. Hawke’s Bay
6. Wairarapa Bush
7. Horowhenua Kapiti
8. Poverty Bay
3. Hawkes Bay
4. Poverty Bay
5. Mid Canterbury
6. South Canterbury
7. North Otago
5. Hanan Shield side
1. Counties Manukau
2. Bay of Plenty
3. North Harbour
2. Counties Manukau
4. Bay of Plenty
5. North Harbour