Five games in one day after three-and-a-quarter hours of travel is a challenge no matter what the code is.
When the sport is sevens and the team leaves Hastings at 5am to travel to Tauranga, it adds to the severity of the task. But it was a challenge Hawke's Bay's Nga Wahine Toa was prepared to take on.
The Thomas Te Pou-coached side were aiming to retain their Bay of Plenty under-15 development title on the Friday and their under-18 development title on the Saturday. On day one Te Pou's troops opened their campaign with a three tries to one loss to Te Puke High.
"Although Te Puke boasted some size it was our worst game of the day," Te Pou said.
Nga Wahine Toa bounced back with a four tries to three win against Tauranga Girls before Hamilton Girls High School gave the Bay outfit a lesson in ball retention with a six tries to one victory. Te Pou regathered his troops and they pipped Rotorua Girls 12-10 despite losing Angela Cameron and Priya Singh with injuries.
This left them with nine players who were already suffering due to heat, fatigue and the number of physical games. Trident High School had a fit, slim-looking team who had challenged all teams throughout the tournament but the consistent backline of Kahlia Awa, captain Te Aira Te Pou, Rahera Heke and Phoenicia Te Rito proved too fast for Whakatane's Trident.
"With three wins and two loses the girls finished third, ruing their first-up loss to Te Puke. The huge workrate of Lillie Spencer and the committed defence of Phoenicia Te Rito were a credit to the girls and their families," coach Te Pou said.
Day 2 saw the 9 girls who were left from Friday's tournament joined by Ona Palu, Stevie Lee Sylva and Mereana Tetau to contest the under-18 tournament. The first match saw Whakatane High taught a lesson in expansive running as Nga Wahine Toa won seven tries to one. But with Awa collecting a broken leg the squad was reduced to nine players.
The Hawke's Bay team conceded three tries in their second match against Trident while captain Te Pou hunted for her mouthguard. However when she returned she gave them direction and unleashed their power forward Ona Palu who either scored or set up a try as Nga Wahine Toa won four tries to three.
Cambridge were next on the agenda and they had some strong running players who stuck to a successful but simple game plan. The game went to and fro with the injury hit Bay team suffering from their lack of numbers. Halfback Heke carried a bruised knee but her snipes around the mauls caused the opposition problems every time. With a last minute penalty Cambridge ran the ball scoring an 80m try and converting it to seal a hard fought draw against the defending champions.
Nga Wahine Toa shared the title with Cambridge. Oasis Ferris must be commended for her determined kick chase. Passion Te Amo deserves kudos for putting her body on the line when her team needed her the most.