Hawke's Bay Sevens manager Conrad Waitoa was heaping kudos on Peniasi Tokakece after the Bay secured their first Central Region title in 17 years on Saturday.
"Peni has yet to play for us at the Queenstown nationals but if he keeps playing like he did for us today he will be coming to next month's nationals," Waitoa said, referring to the fact Hawke's Bay booked their berth at the January 12-13 nationals by winning the Central Region qualifier in Palmerston North.
"Peni was our player-of-the-tournament. He combined well with Trent [Boswell-Wakefield] and Adam Bradey in the forwards. They were dominant at scrum time and around the paddock. In fact, Peni and Trent did the donkey work so well this allowed Adam to show his skills out among the backs," Waitoa said minutes after Hawke's Bay walloped Tokakece's former Sevens side Manawatu 47-19 in the final.
Waitoa agreed Tokakece may have been prompted to increase his workload after watching his Hastings Rugby and Sports clubmate Tivaini Fomai make an early exit from the tournament with an achilles injury during the Bay's first game, a 26-7 loss to Wellington.
"Tivaini was taken to Palmy hospital but returned in time to watch the final. Like the rest of us, Tivaini was devastated when he learned he will be out of action for six months," Waitoa said.
After the Wellington loss, Hawke's Bay beat Horowhenua-Kapiti 22-5 and Taranaki 14-12 en route to the final. New Zealand wider training squad member Gillies Kaka scored three tries in the final.
Bay coach Murdoch Paewai was a member of the 1995 Hawke's Bay team which won the 1995 Central Region title. On Thursday he will name a 16-strong squad from which 14 players will be named to attend the January 5 Mount Maunganui tournament and the nationals squad of 12.
After an outstanding first-up game which saw Wellington beaten 22-5, the Hawke's Bay women blew their chances of qualifying for the Queenstown nationals with a 19-10 loss to Taranaki.
"We let ourselves down in that game and that was our ticket to Queenstown gone. However we bounced back from that game to push Manawatu the closest on the day before we lost 29-12," Bay coach Tom Blake said.
"It was a day of missed opportunities for us. Not sticking to the game also proved costly ... the girls learned if you try and change things you can run out of time. But in saying that they still enjoyed themselves and are keen for more experience at this level."
Krysten Duffill had a phenomenal workrate for the Bay throughout the day and Shaylee Tipiwai also had memorable patches. Former New Zealand representative Julie Ferguson's experience proved beneficial.