Counties Manukau, Manawatu win National Sevens titles in style

By Nigel Yalden

Manawatu took out the womans title at the National Sevens. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post
Manawatu took out the womans title at the National Sevens. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post

A rampant Counties Manukau claimed the Nationals Sevens title in style today.

The emphatic 54-14 victory over surprise finalists North Harbour in Rotorua saw the South Auckland side secure their first national sevens crown since 1995.

Led by Olympic hopeful and player of the tournament Augustine Pulu, Counties Manukau's performances was based on strong defence and sharp, skill laden attack.

After rolling clinically through pool play on Saturday, they accounted for Manawatu more easily than the 21-19 scoreline would suggest before going to the next level in their 31-10 semifinal win over Bay of Plenty.

With Pulu running the show, Tavite Gadeisuva, Sione Molia and Josh Van Leishout were able to showcase their talents in front of the national selector.

And Sir Gordon Tietjens was happy with what he saw over the two days.

"It's been pleasing today because I have picked up a couple of players who I believe will add value with some pace and size to the All Black Seven team."

While not searching as keenly as at previous tournaments, Tietjens did have an eye out for top end speed merchants akin to those that the USA have on the world circuit.

Hawkes Bay's Mason Emerson garnered a mention from Tietjens post tournament, although his inexperience in the sevens game was also noted.

In addition to players from the champions, a second generation athlete from the beaten finalist may peek Tietjens interest.

North Harbour's Renata Roberts-Te Nana, son of Sevens great Karl, followed up a consistent first day by lifting his level of play on day two and was key in North Harbour's run to the final as was play maker Whiria Meltzer.

Long and lithe with an excellent turn of speed, Roberts-TeNana showed all the skills that Tietjens has historically looked for in his players.

Manawatu claimed their third women's title in four years, beating Wellington 26-19 in the final.

Inspired by Selica Winiata, Manawatu started the day by ousting Waikato in golden point extra time then shut out Counties Manukau 24-0 in the semifinal.

Wellington's Kat Whata-Simpkins was named women's player of the tournament after producing seven high quality performances over the weekend.

- NZ Herald

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