Mighty Manawatu stun rivals
Manawatu women's coach Stu Ross gets the feeling teams still do not have total respect for his team, who are the national champions.
They are also Bay of Plenty sevens tournament champions after they turned Auckland into scrambled eggs in Saturday's final at Mt Maunganui.
Coached by ‘Mr Touch' Peter Walters, Auckland were blasted off Blake Park 40-5 by Manawatu in their best performance of the day, in scorching afternoon heat. It was Manawatu's first BOP tournament win.
"I think they were stunned with the extent of the result," said Ross.
"I truly believe people still don't take us very seriously. It's that Manawatu tag."
Next Saturday at Rotorua, Manawatu defend their title they won at Queenstown last year.
"A week is a long time in this game," Ross warned.
Auckland will probably have Black Ferns Huriana Manuel and Kayla McAlister back at Rotorua. But Ross felt Saturday's unbeaten run came down to fitness; Manawatu appeared to be a better-conditioned team.
"This time last year we were in a bit of disarray."
Now he must cut two players from the 14 he took north. There is only one injury concern, over Stephanie Downer's swollen knee.
A big defensive effort got Manawatu past Canterbury 10-7 while four women were rested when they beat Bay of Plenty 2 26-0.
Manawatu had also beaten Counties-Manukau 17-5 and in pool play beat Auckland 21-19 after trailing 19-14. In overtime, Manawatu turned the ball over, Kendall Templeman used her gas to sprint 60 metres to score and superstar Selica Winiata converted for the win.
Templeman backed herself at the tournament for two top tries and rookie sevens forward Nicole Dickins excelled. So did the usual stars as well as Shakira Baker who showed she had put in extra training and Kristina Sue was named in the tournament seven, one player picked from each team.
At the nationals, Manawatu will play a crazy four games on day one, against Taranaki, Counties-Manukau, Canterbury and Otago.
New Zealand sevens playmaker Junior Tomasi Cama didn't play for the Manawatu men but he coached them to four wins from five at Mt Maunganui.
Manawatu won the plate final, beating Central region tournament champions, Hawke's Bay, 26-19.
It might have come at a cost, with calf injuries to Shaun Curry and Turbo Jade Te Rure which might put them out of the nationals next week.
In the other games, Manawatu beat Waikato 10-7, lost to Canterbury 24-14 when two mistakes cost them, beat Northland 19-14 in extra time and in the opening pool game beat Hawke's Bay 29-12. The Magpies didn't have their Central tournament star, Ihaia West.
The two teams meet again at Rotorua as well as Waikato and Otago.
Last year Manawatu tried to get injured players across the line, whereas this time the men have been in better condition. The team looked well-rounded at Mt Maunganui.
Cama started one seven in the first game against Hawke's Bay and the other seven for the next match.
Speedster George Tilsley proved his worth as did Adrian Curry, Hamish McKellar in the air and forward Brice Henderson.