Physical game plan secures title
Blenheim's Central Rugby Club were the surprise package at the Turf Hotel Tasman club sevens tournament in Motueka yesterday, delivering a hard-hitting performance to take the title.
Central's physicality gave them the edge and a 34-22 win over Nelson College in the men's final.
In the women's competition, Stoke were unrivalled, finishing the day unbeaten with a 66-0 win over Waimea Old Boys in the final and having their line crossed only once, in a narrow 14-7 win over Marist.
Ten teams contested the men's division, played across two pools and two semifinals, while four women's teams contested a round-robin competition, with the top two teams playing off in the final at Sports Park Motueka.
Central won their place in the final by scoring a try after fulltime and kicking the conversion to beat perennial finalists and 2009 champions Stoke 17-15.
Nelson College, who beat Central 21-14 in pool play to top their group, outflanked Wanderers 24-19 in the other semifinal.
In the final, strong running in the middle of the park saw Central open the scoring through captain Willie Alaiasa. Nelson College struck straight back as a cutout ball found the pace of Kerehama Barrett out wide, and he finished from 50 metres out.
With the scores at 5-all, Central began their barrage, sending bodies careering into contact. Nelson College's defensive line fractured and Willie Umu, Jesse MacDonald and Simione Gaymo touched down for Central to lead 22-5 at halftime.
The second half saw Central continue their good work up the middle of the park and their control of the breakdowns. The ability to stand in the tackle and offload led to tries for Benji Keenan and Alaiasa.
With the score at 34-5 with five minutes to play, Central buttoned off. The talent that got Nelson College to the final only needed a little space to prosper, and the students finished well. Barrett claimed another try in the same fashion as his first, while David Havili scored twice in the closing minutes to close the margin.
Central coach Onolevu Temo said his side learned some valuable lessons in their earlier loss to Nelson College.
"Nelson College were pretty strong in pool play . . . I think we needed to bring physicality. From the first game, they dominated the contact, and I think that is what we did in the first half.
"We are glad the time beat them at the end when they came back, but we have been training for the last seven weeks for this, and it paid off."
Tasman men's selector Mike Kerrisk of the Tasman Rugby Union said he was impressed with the level of play and having a full contingent of teams turn out.
"The Central team for me was the real surprise package. When they first sent their team list through, there was a lot of names there that I wasn't aware of, but boy, there is a few guys that had an asterisk beside their name by the end of the day, and there will be a few calls going over the hill to Marlborough in the next 24 hours."
Aside from club pride, Tasman men's and women's representative spots were a carrot for players.
Extended 21-player men's and women's squads will initially be named to prepare for the South Island tournament in Timaru on November 24, a qualifying tournament for the nationals.
Kerrisk and women's selectors Shaun Begg and Cyril Collier were due to confirm their squads today.
Stoke's Tevita Koloamatangi picked up the player of the tournament award in the men's competition, while in the women's competition, Zoe Johnson was given the honour.
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