Valuable lessons for young sevens brigade

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2013

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It wasn't all doom and gloom for the New Zealand sevens team, or their fans, after they bowed out of their home tournament in the semifinals.

There was of course the consolation of beating Samoa 17-7 in the playoff for third place, a result that earned coach Gordon Tietjens' team 17 points to keep them atop the IRB World Series ladder.

But there were also some valuable lessons learned by the younger players, many of whom were under the unique pressure of playing in Wellington for the first time.

Ben Lam will rue taking the ball into contact in golden point extra time against Kenya, teenager Luke Masirewa will curse a vital fumble, and local lad Belgium Tuatagaloa will regret the missed tackle on Oscar Ouma whose try sealed the Kiwi's 19-14 loss.

But all three, along with Gillies Kaka, Sam Dickson and Rocky Khan will be better for the experience.

Tietjens is adamant his veterans aren't out of fuel just yet, but the young brigade are pressing hard for more extended game time.

Tuatagaloa was among the rookies contemplating the ups and downs of a whirlwind weekend.

"To be honest I was really hurting after that semifinal loss to Kenya because I was the one who missed that final tackle," he said.

"But overall it was a good experience for me, I've learned a lot from this tournament and I'll take it in and learn from it and I'm looking forward to the next one. I feel down but you have to flush it, that's rugby. One team will win, one team will come second, that's footy."

Tuatagaloa didn't get a lot of game time, but managed to grab tries against Spain and in the playoff, against Samoa, was a constant threat with ball in hand.

Ignoring his mates in the stands during the warmups had been the most difficult aspect but, he said, the crowd had been amazing.

"Playing on your home ground is amazing, it's the best thing you could experience.

"The audience lifted us up. The crowd helped us get up and hyped up the team. But preparation is the main thing, you have to do all the little things right."

New Zealand, gunning for three straight Wellington titles, failed to make the cup final for the sixth time in 14 tournaments.

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- The Dominion Post

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