An inexperienced Bay of Plenty Sevens team has had an ideal tune-up ahead of next week's regionals with a pair of practice matches against the All Blacks Sevens team in Mount Maunganui.
The Bay, missing the talent and experience of the likes of Adam McGarvey, Akiro Mako, Te Aihe Toma and Mason Walker due to injury and unavailability, looked good in patches against the world champions but too often lost their structure and became isolated against their fitter rivals.
The hosts led both games in the first half, but there was a feeling among the spectators that the national side were focusing more on defence than unleashing a string of devastating attacks.
Kurt Baker was hugely impressive after sitting out training with what appeared to be a calf injury on Tuesday, while Bay tacklers were made to look like boys on the school field by the menacing figure of Frank Halai.
New Bay Sevens coach Peter Woods, who will be helped this season by former All Blacks Sevens player Matua Parkinson, said the training match was the ideal way for his players to understand the demands of the game at the top level.
"That's our first hit out as a squad and we've probably got nine or 10 guys unavailable for the day," Parkinson said.
"It's a chance for these guys to show what they've got under this pressure, see what they're like on attack and on defence, and with their communication.
"It's a real plus for us, and the coaching side of our game." The run around marked the start of a busy summer calendar for the Bay side, who will host a mini-tournament in Rotorua on Saturday featuring Taranaki, Thames Valley and Auckland. Play is set to start at Puarenga Park, Whakarewarewa, at 11am, with squad members to push for one of 12 available spots for the regionals which begin in Hamilton on December 7.
The Bay, as tournament hosts, receive automatic entry into the 2015 Bayleys National Sevens in Rotorua from January 17-18.
But Woods said he would try to keep the players in the dark about that in the hope of receiving their best collective effort.