Sevens: Rangataua wrap up sevens

Rangataua defied the odds to write their own piece of history when they became the first team to win the annual Mount Maunganui sevens tournament in three successive years after they beat Te Puna 38-15 in the Championship final played on the Gordon Tietjens Field at Blake Park on Sunday.

They won a highly-entertaining and fast-paced final against a Te Puna side that fielded five guest players vying for spots in the New Zealand sevens team for Wellington next week in Tomasi Cama, Milford Keresoma, Sherwin Stowers, Dan Dixon and Mark Jackman.

Both sides did well to make the final against teams from all over the North Island, including the cream of the Bay of Plenty clubs and former winners in Grammar Carlton, Hautapu, Mount Maunganui, Arataki, Taradale and Havelock North.

Rangataua's coach for the three consecutive title wins, former Maori and sevens All Black Matua Parkinson, was immensely proud of how his team played.

"It was a pretty surreal experience to win it for the third time," Parkinson said.

"We were a bit lucky that we had a couple of players in Alex Jessop and Mark Hodgson who hadn't had much game time and they got a start and pretty much produced the goods. But it was a pretty good team effort up against a good team and was a good challenge for us up against almost a New Zealand backline."

Rangataua had to beat the well-performed Tauranga Sports in the semifinal after they knocked out a Perth-based team in the quarters playing under the umbrella of the Judea club.

"Josh Heke brought them over and they were a tough side, competitive, and had plenty of big boys with a few locals in there to help them out from Te Puna, like Craig and Quinton Gardner," Parkinson said.

"Luckily we had a good defensive structure so we were able to hold them off. Then we had Tauranga Sports who had a good sevens team with plenty of fit young buggers, so we had to deny them possession which we did. If they didn't have the ball that meant we had it and we could score points."

The final against Te Puna went much easier than most expected with a comprehensive victory to Rangataua, who Parkinson said had a few players shine in front of New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens.

"Akira Mako has come on in leaps and bounds and done a lot of good work with Dean Jennings fitness-wise in the Bay squad and he played the most minutes out of anyone. Defensively he was sound against that New Zealand backline and on attack he played really, really well.

"Matt Clutterbuck is a stalwart of the game you know. He is fit, fast and does the work rate for you, and we had a young guy out of Rotorua Boys' Tawhia Morrison, who has speed to burn which you can't beat in the game of sevens."

Parkinson had plenty of praise for his co-coach and key player in the experienced Nathaniel Walker, who looks after the on-field plays while Parkinson looks after the wider issues and gives memorable halftime messages.

"He is probably the oldest man to pull on the boots and probably the hairiest man too," Parkinson said with a laugh. "He has done an exceptional job with the boys, and got them fit. It has been working well lately so we'll stick to it in the future I think."

Te Puna's coach Paul Tietjens had no regrets after the final, as it was the end of a long and successful season for his up-and-coming Te Puna side that won the Bay of Plenty sevens in November.

"We were disappointed we didn't take out the final but at the same time we have had a pretty good season and it was great for the young fellas to play with some of the New Zealand players," Tietjens said.

"Rangataua had a pretty experienced Sevens side with a lot of Bay of Plenty players who have played sevens for years now and they definitely played well in the final.

"I think the Mount sevens is one of the best club competitions in New Zealand that I have been involved with as a player for five or six years and now as a coach."

In the other section finals, North Shore club Glenfield dispatched Taradale 28-17 to win the Plate final, Auckland University defeated hosts Mount Maunganui 14-0 to take home the Special Plate trophy, and Hawera side Southern beat Hutt Marist 22-12 in the Bowl final.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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