Sevens: Superb Sevens crowd create traffic jam

The traffic jams around Blake Park early on Saturday evening were testimony to the continued interest in Sevens rugby.

A bumper crowd had rolled in to watch the annual Bay Engineers Supplies Provincial Rugby Sevens tournament, featuring the cream of New Zealand's talent.

In the men's competition, 12 teams entered including two representing Bay of Plenty, while the resurgence in women's Sevens saw eight teams entered.

Inspired by captain Orene Ai'i, Auckland won the men's championship title after beating Waikato 26-12, with Waikato defeating Counties Manukau 29-21 in the women's final.

Bay of Plenty's men's teams were a mix of the best players likely to wear the jersey at the Pub Charity Rugby Sevens next weekend in Queenstown, and some talented younger players on the fringe of the squad.

Bay of Plenty 1 beat North Harbour 24-17 and Canterbury 14-12 in pool play, before losing to Auckland 21-15 in the championship quarterfinal.

In the consolation final, the Bay ran into a strong Taranaki outfit and lost 28-15.

Bay of Plenty 2 had a tough start to the day, losing pool games to Wellington 31-12 and Waikato 33-5 which meant they ended up in the plate division.

That meant a clash with Manawatu in the plate semifinal, which ended in a draw, but the Bay went through to the final as they scored the first try.

In the final, the Bay played North Harbour and in a sparkling exhibition of Sevens the game went down to the wire before Harbour snatched victory by 31-29.

Bay coach Dean Jennings used the day's play to sort out the final details of his squad for next week's nationals.

"I was not too dissatisfied, to be honest, as a week out [from nationals] and you are still trying different things and we had different combinations in the teams that we don't necessarily have in our top team all together," Jennings said. "We mixed and matched a bit so I was reasonably happy with how it went. There was competition for places before today and quite a few guys who were around the fringes put up their hand and played well, so it has given us a bit of a headache as to who to select."

The Bay women's team started the day with narrow losses to Counties Manukau and Manawatu before they scored a memorable 24-5 win over Wellington to reach the Bowl final, where they dealt to Wellington 43-7.

Coach Kevin Lee was in a positive mood after the day's play, with his team continuing to improve.

"Today was a culmination of a lot of hard work, commitment and good effort from the girls," Lee said. "What we are seeing now is they are understanding the game of Sevens and they have lifted their level of Sevens considerably to where they are now provincially competitive.

"I am really pleased about the players' attitude towards rugby and what they want to achieve."

Lee and his team have been given some great news regarding regular games against the NZ Sevens women, coached by former Steamers coach Sean Horan.

"Sean has given us the opportunity to play them when they come into camps [at Blake Park] on a regular basis. They have invited us to play two games on January 26 as part of their preparation for the next round of the world series, but as far as the development of Bay of Plenty women's rugby, it is not a one-off.

"They have sent me their whole programme and will play games against us before they go away to their next three or four tournaments.

"For our girls to look forward to that, and for us planning as coaches towards next year with the nationals in Rotorua in 2014, this is something to keep everyone enthusiastic and when I told the girls they were all buzzing about it," Lee said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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