Rugby: Hard work looms for Sevens players

By Cameron Leslie

Northland's Sevens team have qualified for January's national tournament in Queenstown, just.

After being in a position to beat North Harbour and the Auckland Barbarians, Northland slipped to bottom in their pool which left them in a sudden death play-off against a hungry Thames Valley.

Northland manager Brad Te Haara said there was definitely a sense of relief as the team headed back from Auckland on Saturday.

"I guess it was a bit of a relief to qualify. We honestly believed we would have gone down and won more games."

Te Haara has the unenviable task of reliving the weekend's matches and figuring out what happens ahead of their next training.

"On attack we were fine and had no issues, everyone felt comfortable, but on defence we weren't so that'll be our key to work on for the next few weeks," said Te Haara.

"She's going to be a good next few weeks with picking up the intensity and trying to get the guys to switch on.

"To be fair, looking at the games we did do well but a few things like guys popping the ball up, stretching out and knocking the ball on, went wrong. Little things like that, but they're often what wins games."

Te Haara said Northland was given a prime opportunity early in their game against North Harbour after Harbour had one of their players sin binned in the opening minute for taking Dan Pryor out in the air.

However, Northland was unable to capitalise on their two-minute, and one player, advantage and ended up leaking a try themselves.

Young Sevens prospect Josh Browne, 17, was the only silver lining in their 17-14 loss to Harbour - who eventually were runners up in the final - as he showed promise by stepping three defenders late in the game, one of who was ex-Blues player David Raikuna.

Beating Harbour would have significantly changed Northland's tight finish to the tournament as they would have moved above the Auckland Barbarian team, which they drew 19-all with, and safely through to nationals. Earlier on the day, Northland was comprehensively beaten by eventual winners Waikato.

Te Haara said Browne was a real revolution and was one of the stars for Northland, along with Rene Rangers whose experience was integral in their final match.

While Ranger was crucial in securing Northland's place, it is unsure whether the Blues will allow him to play at nationals.

Te Haara maintained that despite Northland's failure on the weekend, they would come good ahead of nationals.

"No one will be expecting much from us, which is good, and if we can get it together then we'll be a real threat."

- Northern Advocate

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