Otago put Hawke's Bay to sevens bottom half
One of the big guns was knocked out of cup contention at the national sevens tournament in Rotorua today, with Otago dumping Hawke's Bay into the bottom half of the draw.
Another of the pre-tournament favourites will also face an early elimination, with Auckland and Manawatu set to face each other in a Cup quarterfinal at Rotorua International Stadium this afternoon.
Otago shocked Hawke's Bay in the final match in Pool A, handing them a 29-12 defeat.
The Bay boasted one of the strongest line-ups in this year's competition, including All Blacks Sevens player Gillies Kaka and exciting ITM Cup player Ihaia West, but that didn't matter to Otago, who out hustled and out ran their opponents in a tight pool match.
Matt Faddes opened the scoring for Otago early in the match, before Josh Casey added a second moments later to put his side 10-0 up.
Billy Ropiha clawed one back for Hawkes Bay just before the half, and then Tamati Samuels gave the Bay a halftime lead.
Trailing 12-10 at the half, Otago came out and scored early through Faddes, taking his tournament tally to five tries.
Hawkes Bay never looked like coming back, with Otago controlling the ball and crossing again with two minutes to play.
Otago scored another as the fulltime hooter sounded, sending them through to a cup semifinal against Wellington after the capital side proved a surprise winner of Pool B, overcoming pre-tournament favourites Auckland 17-14 in their afternoon matchup.
The Scott Waldrom-coached side also defeated Poverty Bay, 29-7, and Southland, 31-7, to top the pool while Auckland ended with two wins.
That leaves Auckland with the unenviable task of overcoming the Tomasi Cama-led Manawatu in the cup quarterfinal this afternoon.
Auckland had come into the tournament with a win at the Bay of Plenty Invitational pre-nationals tournament last weekend, beating Taranaki 26-5 in the final.
Before that, they won the Northern Region Sevens tournament in Hamilton last month, beating Northland in the Cup final.
Wellington lost to Auckland last weekend, but the tables were turned in almost every way. At Blake Park last Saturday, Auckland were behind 14-5 at the break, fighting back to win the semifinal 19-14.
Today Auckland led at the half 14-5, with All Blacks Sevens player Ben Lam scoring two tries, while Orene Ai'I added the conversions.
After the half Wellington fought back, with Inoke Rasabale scoring twice, and Tomasi Alosio scoring the third try, handing Wellington the win.
Northland topped Pool D, and will take on Canterbury in the quarterfinal, while Pool C winners Taranaki will play Bay of Plenty in the other cup quarter.
Counties Manukau were unlucky to miss the quarters, beating Bay of Plenty in the final pool match 21-17, but failing to improve their points differential above their opponents.
In the women's draw, top-seeded teams Auckland and Manawatu will go head to head in the cup semifinal, after Counties Manukau pipped Manawatu into first place in Pool A.
Counties and Manawatu drew 12-all in pool play but Counties had the better points differential in winning their other matches against Canterbury, Taranaki and Bay of Plenty.
Waikato will take on Counties in the other cup semi, after finishing second to Auckland in Pool B.