The New Zealand Club Sevens has grown to be one of the most hotly contested tournaments on the rugby calendar to win.
Last year’s winners Eden Rugby Club became the seventh different winner of the tournament in as many years, and this year a string of provincial club sevens champions are set to descend on the club’s home ground Gribblehirst Park in Auckland, most hoping to take home the title for the first time.
Current club sevens champions from Northland, Auckland, North Harbour, Counties Manukau, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and Canterbury fill the16-team field for the two-day tournament.
Teams are grouped in four pools on day one, with crossover and knockout games on Sunday, culminating in the final for the impressive Middlesex County Wavell Wakefield Cup.
Some of the country’s well-known sevens players are expected to play this weekend, although a New Zealand Sevens Development camp has also been scheduled for this weekend taking some leading players out of their squads. The rules of the tournament also state that each team can field one invitational player and one school-aged player.
Last year’s winners Eden defeated North Harbour’s Massey 26-7 in the final. Eden had beaten Auckland rivals Suburbs in their Cup semi-final, while Massey had defeated Wellington champions the Upper Hutt Rams in the other.
The 2017 Plate final was more exciting, with then defending champions Melville from Waikato and 2014 winners Rangataua from the Bay of Plenty locked up at 12-12 at fulltime. Melville won in golden point extra time.
This year, hosts Eden are joined by two Auckland clubs, 2017 Auckland club fifteens Gallaher Shield and sevens winners University and local sevens runners-up and 2013 national champions Pakuranga.
North Harbour sides East Coast Bays and Northcote make the short trip south to this tournament. East Coast Bays are the current Harbour club sevens champions, while Northcote finished third at their 4 November tournament.
Northland winners Old Boys Marist and Counties Manukau champions Patumahoe are joined by two teams from Waikato and no fewer than three from Bay of Plenty.
Fraser Tech beat the Hamilton Marist Ravens 25-10 in the final of last November’s Waikato sevens championship and both feature this weekend.
Tauranga Sports defeated Greerton Marist 26-14 in the final of the Baywide club sevens to win the Sir Gordon Tietjens Trophy. Both clubs are represented this weekend, along with beaten semi-finalists Rangataua.
Further south, two Hawke’s Bay sides will line up, each hoping to bring the Middlesex County Wavell Wakefield Cup back to the eastside for the first time. Defeat is a rare word around the Napier Old Boys Marist club in recent times, having added their own invitational tournament title on 20 November to their unbeaten 2017 fifteens season. The Havelock North Villagers are set to join them in Auckland.
NOBM defeated Wellington champions the Upper Hutt Rams 24-19 in the final of their invitational tournament in November, with the Rams in turn knocking out Havelock North in the semi-finals.
Earlier in November, the Rams retained the Wellington American Ambassador’s Trophy title, winning the three-tournament series. They have reached the semi-finals of this tournament for each of the past four years without winning it, so won’t be short of motivation.
The sole South Island team entered is Canterbury sevens champions Marist Albion, who had five players in the Canterbury National Sevens squad in Rotorua in January and have high hopes of bringing the trophy back to the Mainland for the first time since 2011.
Marist Albion defeated the Christchurch club 28-21 and then Linwood 22-5 in the semi-finals and final of the Canterbury-wide club sevens tournament in November.
Play gets underway at 9.00am on Saturday and runs all day. The New Zealand Defence Force and Japanese Defence Force men’s and women’s sides play special invitation games mid-afternoon on Saturday. The tournament’s trophies have a military flavour – playing for both the Middlesex Cup and the Bosnian AK 74 Bayonet.
Northland: Old Boys Marist
North Harbour: East Cost Bay, Northcote
Auckland: Eden*, University, Pakuranga
Counties Manukau: Patumahoe
Waikato: Fraser Tech, Hamilton Marist*
Bay of Plenty: Rangataua*, Tauranga Sports, Greerton Marist
Hawke’s Bay: Napier Old Boys Marist, Havelock North
Wellington: Upper Hutt Rams*
Canterbury: Marist Albion
*Returning from last year
The Middlesex Cup sevens tournament was hosted by the Middlesex RFC at Twickenham each year from 1925. In 1949 the Middlesex Union offered cups in its name to the “Dominions of Colonies” and Middlesex Wavell Wakefield Cups were accepted by New Zealand, Australia and Rhodesia.
Brought to New Zealand by the manager of the British Lions, L.B. (Ginger) Osborne, in 1950, the tournament was started in Dunedin in 1951 and first won by local club Zingari-Richmond. It fell away in the 1990s and wasn’t contested for a decade up to its revival in 2006.
In 66 years of competition, it has been held by 27 individual winners - 10 from the North Island and 17 from the South Island. It had been held by South Island clubs continuously for more than three decades before Auckland’s Pakuranga won in 2013 to become the first North Island team to prevail since Hamilton Old Boys in 1976.
2007 Green Island (Dunedin)
2008 Alhambra-Union (Dunedin)
2009 Alhambra-Union (Dunedin)
2010 Otago University (Dunedin)
2011 Burnham (Canterbury)
2013 Pakuranga (Auckland)
2014 Rangataua (Bay of Plenty)
2015: Wainuiomata (Wellington)
2016: Melville (Waikato)
2017: Eden (Auckland)
Pool A: Eden, Havelock North, Marist Albion, Fraser Tech
Pool B: Hamilton Marist, Tauranga Sports, Patumahoe, East Coast Bays
Pool C: Old Boys Marist, Greerton Marist, Pakuranga, Napier Old Boys Marist
Pool D: Upper Hutt Rams, Rangataua, Northcote, University
Day One draw –Saturday 10 February
9.00am: Upper Hutt Rams v Rangataua
9.20am: Northcote v University
9.40am: Old Boys Marist v Greerton Marist
10.00am: Pakuranga v Napier Old Boys Marist
10.20am: Hamilton Marist v Tauranga Sports
10.40am: Patumahoe v East Coast Bays
11.00am: Eden v Havelock North
11.20am: Marist Albion v Fraser Tech
11.40am: Upper Hutt Rams v Northcote
12.00pm: Rangataua v University
12.20pm: Old Boys Marist v Pakuranga
12.40pm: Greerton Marist v Napier Old Boys Marist
1.00pm: Hamilton Marist v Patumahoe
1.20pm: Tauranga Sports v East Coast Bays
1.40pm: Eden v Marist Albion
2.00pm: Havelock North v Fraser Tech
2.20pm: New Zealand Women Defence Force v Japan Women Defence Force
2.40pm: New Zealand Men Defence Force v Japan Men Defence Force
3.00pm: Rangataua v Northcote
3.20pm: Upper Hutt Rams v University
3.40pm: Greerton Marist v Pakuranga
4.00pm: Old Boys Marist v Napier Old Boys Marist
4.20pm: Tauranga Sports v Patumahoe
4.40pm: Hamilton Marist v East Coast Bays
5.00pm: Havelock North v Marist Albion
5.20pm: Eden v Fraser Tech
Day 2 draw - Sunday 11 February times:
9.00am – 10.00am: Bottom 8 quarter-finals
10.20am – 11.20am: Top 8 quarter-finals
11.40am – 12.40pm: Bottom 8 semi-finals
1.00pm – 2.00pm: Top 8 semi-finals
2.20pm: Bowl Final
2.40pm: Shield Final
3.00pm: Plate Final
3.20pm: Cup Final
Follow the tournament’s Facebook page for live feed and score updates at https://www.facebook.com/events/267294403793974/
Additional tournament coverage and round-up on this website