Fifteen of the country’s leading club sevens teams will be out to prevent a three-peat from the host side Eden RFC at this weekend’s National Club Seven tournament at Auckland.
Last year Eden became the first club since Dunedin’s Alhambra-Union to successfully defend the Middlesex County Wavell Wakefield Cup when the beat hot-shot Hawke’s Bay outfit Napier Old Boys Marist 24-14 in the wet in the Cup final at their Sandringham enclave.
This year’s tournament has been moved down the road to Fearon Park, Mount Roskill, where a couple of former champions and and several strong contenders from other regions will look to march off with the crown.
Former champions taking part include 2013 winners Pakuranga from Auckland and Melville from Waikato, while other club teams representing Northland, North Harbour, Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Wellington and two from Canterbury are set to fire their guns on Saturday morning.
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, while the rules of the tournament also state that each team can field one invitational player and one school-aged player.
Prior to beating NOBM (returning this year) in last year’s final, Eden had defeated Northland’s Old Boys Marist (not returning) 19-0 in their quarter-final and overcome Waikato’s Hamilton Marist (not returning) 14-5 in their semi-final.
Northland’s Old Boys Marist went on to win the 2018 Plate final while two other sides not participating this year, North Harbour’s East Coast Bays and Wellington’s Upper Hutt Rams took home the respective Bowl and Shield titles.
Wellington will be represented by club sevens series champions Northern United, competing in their tournament for the first time.
Of the two Canterbury clubs representing the South Island, Marist Albion are the two-time defending Spring Series 7s champions and are well represented in the Canterbury 7s team. Belfast join them in Auckland this weekend.
Play gets underway at 9.00am on Saturday and runs all day. The tournament’s trophies have a military flavour – playing for both the Middlesex Cup and the Bosnian AK 74 Bayonet.
9.00am – 10.20am: Bottom 8 quarter-finals
10.20am – 11.40am: Top 8 quarter-finals
11.40am – 1.00pm: Bottom 8 semi-finals
1.20pm – 2.40pm: Top 8 semi-finals
2.40pm: Bowl Final
3.00pm: Shield Final
3.20pm: Plate Final
3.40pm: Cup Final
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 67 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.
The previous 10 winners have been (not played for in 2012):
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)
2018: Eden (Auckland)