Wellington won their first national sevens title by beating defending champions North Harbour in the final at the Institute of Rugby in Palmerston North yesterday.

Wellington beat perennial finalists North Harbour 36-12 in a disjointed final heavily affected by gales sweeping the Massey University ground.

Harbour lost national sevens captain Eric Rush at the start of the final with an injury to his calf muscle, and his team looked rudderless after that as they chased their fourth successive title.

Harbour scored first, but after that Wellington were too strong, with Scott Waldrom, Esava Tiko, player of the tournament Tafai Ioasa and Fa'atonu Fili carving out a 19-5 lead at halftime.

Wellington raced away into the wind in the second half.

Earlier, Auckland were looking strong to win the final for the first time since 1991. But they played up the middle too often in their semifinal against Wellington and paid the price, losing 28-21.

New Zealand sevens representative Amasio Valence scored for Auckland in the last second to tie the game 21-21, but Wellington scored in extra, sudden-death time.

Wellington had made the top seven on a countback of tries in their pool after they were hammered 29-12 in their opening game by Southland on Saturday.

The giantkillers of the tournament were third-division Horowhenua-Kapiti, who reached the cup championship for the first time. They lost 24-19 in the semifinals to North Harbour, but scored three tries.

Waikato, with New Zealand sevens player Damian Karauna opening up the gaps with his stepping, beat Hawkes Bay 21-17 in the plate final.

Marlborough, with most of their NPC second-division backline, beat Taranaki 33-10 in the bowl final.

West Coast won the shield final over New Zealand Marist 38-19.

The Coasters had four Fijian players and rattled North Harbour in the opening match on Saturday. Their toughest game yesterday was a 14-12 win over neighbours Buller.

There was no shortage of upsets in the women's competition, with Canterbury winning the championship for the first time, downing last year's finalists Bay of Plenty 25-14 in the final. Canterbury scored five tries.

On the way, Canterbury beat Wellington 12-5 and Otago 17-5.

Manawatu beat South Canterbury 43-10 in the playoff for third place. .

- NZPA