Bruised Auckland face gaps in Sevens ranks

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 13/01/2013
Sven Penwarden of Southland
Photosport

BIG FEND: Sven Penwarden of Southland against Northland.

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Defending champions Auckland will make a decision this morning on the fitness of two key players as they look to bank a third consecutive straight national sevens title in Queenstown.

Auckland skipper Edwin Cocker suffered a shoulder injury against Tasman and didn't take part in the team's final game of the day, a confidence-boosting 38-10 win over fellow contenders Wellington.

New Zealand representative Milford Keresoma is also in doubt with a chest infection.

Auckland coach Paul Feeney hoped to have his captain and his representative winger available, although he was also confident in the ability of his bench to step up.

"[Edwin's] got a stinger and he couldn't move his arms there for a while," Feeney said.

"We are going to assess him in the morning and make a decision on whether he can play tomorrow after a night's sleep and go from there. He took a big, big knock, but he's a tough rooster and he loves the Auckland jersey, so he wants to play.

"Ed's a bloody good player, but [Iopu Iopu] played for New Zealand in October and scored a couple of great tries - he's a junior Ed Cocker. He works hard, has got a big engine and he's quick, he's the heir apparent to Ed's position in our team."

Feeney was pleased with the way his players came on after trailing South Canterbury 14-7 at halftime in their opening game.

"We started pretty scratchily, South Canterbury put us under a bit of pressure. We looked lethargic but as we built into the day our performances got better, really pleased with that last game of the day."

One of the factors in that was the leadership of the experienced Orene Ai'i, who missed the opening game.

"He, along with Rocky Khan, two old heads, it certainly helped our game," Feeney said.

Auckland will not have to get past Waikato today after they were surprisingly knocked out of title contention with losses to Northland and Southland. Waikato had beaten Auckland in the semifinals on the way to winning the northern regional qualifier and finished runners-up to Auckland at the Bay of Plenty invitational at Mt Maunganui last weekend.

The quarterfinalists for the championship today are Auckland, Wellington, Southland, Northland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Otago and North Harbour.

Meanwhile, tries by New Zealand sister act Chyna and Carla Hohepa helped Waikato to a 15-7 win over favourites Auckland as the women's competition made its debut on the Queenstown Recreation Ground.

The women play a round robin competition which continues today and is likely to end with Auckland and Waikato meeting again in the final.

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