Hawke's Bay's Latrell Ah Kiong heaped kudos on students of Peterhead School and their families after he become a world champion for the second consecutive year on Saturday.
"When I finished school I took on a teacher aide role at Peterhead. The messages of support I got from the kids and their parents throughout the tournament was inspirational for me," Ah Kiong said as he reflected on the New Zealand Schools title win at the World Schools Sevens tournament in Auckland on Saturday.
For the second consecutive year Hastings Boys' High School's Ah Kiong and his teammates were unbeaten and took on New Zealand Fijians in the final. This year New Zealand won 43-5, a huge improvement on last year's 22-12 victory.
"It's pretty mean to be a world champion two years in a row," Ah Kiong said as his parents, older sister Aaliyah and younger brothers Desean and Ladanian congratulated him after the final at the Pakuranga Rugby Club.
Ah Kiong, who was used as an impact pivot or winger in all six of the New Zealand team's matches, is the son of former Hawke's Bay Sevens representative Herman Ah Kiong and former Hawke's Bay basketball and netball rep Cheleme Smiler. He is a grandson of former Magpie Wini Smiler.
The Bay's top secondary schools rugby player this year, Ah Kiong, 18, will again play for Havelock North at the Hawke's Bay Sevens in Waipukurau in February before switching to 15-a-side mode for Clive.
In their semifinal New Zealand beat the New Zealand Maori Schools team 26-12. Ah Kiong's former HBHS teammate Andrew Hayward played for the Maori team.
New Zealand Fijians pipped Australia 17-12 in their semifinal. Ah Kiong's side pipped Tonga 12-7 in their quarterfinal.
During Friday's pool games New Zealand beat the United States 21-7, the Australian Indigenous team 63-5 and the Fijian Academy side 43-0. Ah Kiong scored a try against Fijian Academy.
Hawke's Bay Tui speedster and former Karamu High School player Cortez Te Pou was a member of the New Zealand Schools female side which lost 26-17 to Australia in their semifinal. Australia won the final with a 21-12 victory over Japan.
Meanwhile the Maurice Trapp Group Hawke's Bay men's sevens team finished sixth at the Tect national tournament in Tauranga at the weekend. This was a repeat of last year's finish and Hawke's Bay lost 33-19 to last year's champions Tasman in the Plate final of their 16-team competition.
Hawke's Bay led 14-12 at halftime after two tries to Magpie Neria Fomai but conceded 28 unanswered points in the second half before former Magpie Michael Buckley scored a consolation try. Two converted tries were conceded while Magpie Tiaan Falcon, who was released from his Chiefs Super Rugby squad for the tournament, was in the sin bin.
The Ellery Wilson coached side was unbeaten in pool play on Saturday with a 22-19 victory against Southland, 31-5 walloping of Thames Valley and 24-17 victory against Wellington. Hawke's Bay were pipped 12-10 by hosts Bay of Plenty in their quarterfinal on day two before they pipped Canterbury 28-26 in their plate semifinal.
The Dan Rodden-coached Maurice Trapp Group Hawke's Bay women's team had to settle for last place in their 12-team competition after losing their playoff for 11th against North Harbour 19-14. This match required two periods of extra time before Anita Barry scored the deciding try for Harbour.
Former Aotearoa Maori Sevens representative Julie Ferguson-Ngawaka, 41, and her daughter Teilah Ferguson were the Bay's try scorers in this match. Earlier on day two Hawke's Bay lost 26-22 to Taranaki, who scored on the final play of the game, in their Bowl semifinal.
The Bay's only win of the tournament was a 28-19 victory against Taranaki in their last pool game on Saturday. They were earlier beaten 31-5 by Manawatu and 38-5 by Counties-Manukau.
Rodden said while it wasn't the finish his team wanted they benefitted from their learnings.
"We've got the talent and the skills. We just need more sevens tournaments."