With some of the fittest men's talent in the province in action at the opening leg of the Northland men's club rugby sevens at Kerikeri on Saturday, it was the curtain-raising JMB girls' games which drew the biggest cheers on the day.

And unlike the men's event in which Whangarei sides dominated, the two Mangonui teams claimed bragging rights in both under-11 and -13 divisions at the Northland Junior Girls Rugby Festival in emphatic style.

The U11s playing in the North Hokianga strip, and made up of girls from Te Rarawa, Pirates, Aupouri and North Hokianga clubs, ran out winners in all four of their games.

The team, coached by Catherine Semenoff-Murray with assistance from husband Scud, were victorious over United Kawakawa, Mid Northern, Moerewa and Tikipunga, with Pawarenga's Olivia Pirini named Player of the Tournament for her blustering runs, strong defence and good sportsmanship.


A strong and well-drilled Mangonui unit also took out the U13 division title. The mix of players from Eastern, Kaitaia, North Hokianga and Te Rarawa had arrived eager to play but were a little disappointed upon learning the Whangarei team had pulled out, leaving only Tikipunga in their pool.

Wearing the Te Rarawa strip, the Mangonui U13 girls also won all four games but gave enormous credit to Tikipunga for never letting their heads drop. Afterwards, coach Steve Marsden named Anna Allen and Paige Hall as his Players of the Tournament.

The Northland Junior Girls Rugby Festival - also played in the sevens format - was postponed from early September because of bad weather and rescheduled to coincide with the men's event to make it a day out for the whole family.

However, it was the young girls who drew the biggest support on the day, and event organiser Scott Collins was impressed at the huge support from all the parents and coaches on the sidelines as they encouraged the players to do their best but also have have fun playing the game.