They made it to the final but the Hawke's Bay men's team stumbled against Wellington during the Horowhenua 7s in Levin yesterday.
The Maurice Trapp Group-sponsored Bay side, under the tutelage of Ellery Wilson, lost 14-7 to the defending champions during the Central Zone 7s regional qualifying tournament at Playford Park.
"We were very comfortable with the result," team manager Tim Jones said of the No 4 seeds before qualifying they had committed too many errors at pivotal times in the final to cough up valuable possession.
"It was about skills under pressure and it's something you need at that level," lamented Jones as the Bay booked a berth for the nationals in Tauranga on December 14-15.
He said the Teihana Brown-skippered Bay outfit came away much wiser about their sense of cohesiveness and sixth-sense to operate with more efficiency in Tauranga against Otago, Bay of Plenty and Taranaki in pool C.
"The heart shown in defence was a real highlight and, you know, the bond between the boys is really growing for a committed group so we look forward to that in a couple of weeks."
Wellington surged to a 14-0 lead at halftime on the heels of tries to Piri Paraone and Romu Seilebu but a pacy Bay got on the scoreboard from former Wellington player Zach Donaldson.
The Bay went agonisingly close to scoring but a try-saving tackle over the line from Piri Paraone stymied that. A subsequent knock-on s put paid to any hopes of a Bay revival.
Hawke's Bay won the Horowhenua 7s crowns in 2013 and 2015.
Yesterday, the Bay crushed Whanganui 36-0 in pool play before accounting for Taranaki, 33-19, in the semifinal. Wellington had overwhelmed Manawatū 24-5 in their semifinal.
Manawatū beat Taranaki in the men's third-place playoff to ensure they booked national berths alongside Wairarapa-Bush who beat Whanganui 35-7 in their playoff.
Tyrone Dodd-Edwards and sweeper Trent Hape stood out for the Bay.
Jones said the nationals would be competitive but Hawke's Bay fancied their chances of progressing from their pool to to the quarter-finals.
The Manawatū women's side also emulated their feat of last year, retaining their crown with a 22-10 over the Wellingtonians.
Hawke's Bay beat Taranaki 27-7 in the playoff for third although all four teams were guaranteed a nationals berth in their finishing order.
The Shaylee Tipiwai-skippered Bay women beat Taranaki 15-5, succumbed 24-12 to Manawatū and 36-12 to Wellington in pool play.
Liana Mikaele-Tu'u caught the eye of fans in the Daniel Rodden-coached Bay outfit.