Taking their number of late withdrawals into account Havelock North had every right to be proud of their top-four finish at the National Club Sevens which ended in Porirua on Saturday.
"Club stalwarts and co-coaches Murdoch Paewai and Tom Blake were immensely proud," Unison Contracting Services Havelock North manager Conrad Waitoa said after their campaign ended with a 31-10 loss to Bay of Plenty's Te Puna in the semifinals.
The villagers were unbeaten on Friday with a 12-0 win against Kaitaia, a default win against Feilding Yellow and a 45-0 drubbing of Canterbury champions Saracens. Before their semifinal Havelock North beat Timaru Old Boys 26-14 in their Cup quarter-final.
Co-captain and former All Black Sevens representative Trinity Spooner-Neera scored two tries while fellow co-captain Jesse Paewai and Liam Udy-Johns scored the others. Adam Blake, who had returned from a teaching assignment in China in time for the tournament, kicked three conversions.
Waitoa pointed out Havelock North lost the services of Hawke's Bay under-19 speedster Ben Kelt two days before the tournament with a broken arm. Former Hurricanes and Magpies loosie Hugh Renton was called into the Crusaders squad the day before the tournament and former Highlanders and Magpies speedster Ryan Tongia, Kalin Paewai, Trent Hape and Jayden Falcon were also among the late withdrawals.
"Despite these withdrawals we still remained confident in the 12 who travelled. Our goal since the end of October last year was to bring this tournament back to Havelock North," Waitoa said, referring to the fact the tournament winners earn the right to host it the following year.
"Te Puna had superior height on both sides of the field and they did to us what we did to our other opponents."
Jesse Paewai, Trinity Spooner-Neera, the only Bay player named in the tournament team, and workaholic forward Liam Udy-Johns were the villagers' best players throughout the weekend. Waitoa said 16-year-old Cooper Flanders, the youngest player at the tournament, did well to retain his starting-seven berth for the entire tournament.
Waitoa added the weekend's experience has given his troops the necessary confidence to aim for title glory at the Hawke's Bay Sevens in Waipukurau on February 22. The villagers have been runners-up for the past three years.
Ardmore Marist of Counties-Manukau beat Te Puna in the final.
Hawke's Bay's other team in Porirua, MAC, finished their winless campaign with a 21-17 loss to Manawatu's Massey University in the Shield final. Earlier on Saturday MAC lost by the same score to Oriental Rongotai.
On Friday MAC were beaten 17-7 by Ardmore Marist, 26-21 by Wellington champions Hutt City Old Boys and 22-12 by Te Puna. MAC coach Anthony Morley said his squad included five players who hadn't played sevens for MAC before.
Former Samoa Sevens utility back Tom Iosefo and sweeper Alatasi Tupou were the best of the MAC backs while Willie Benson, Teina Huia and Tiki Greening were the pick of the forwards. Morley pointed out his troops won't be going to Waipukurau as they are focused on 15s for the next five months.