Discipline key for Tietjens' men in Wellington

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:02 08/02/2014
Gordon Tietjens
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LOOKING ON: A pensive Gordon Tietjens watches on during day one of the Wellington Sevens tournament, which included a loss to Fiji.

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New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens will be preaching the virtues of discipline in what shapes as a day two bun-fight for the Wellington Sevens title.

Gone are the days when Tietjens' men could simply turn up at Westpac Stadium and waltz through to the final of the home leg of the IRB World Series.

Barring a shock loss to Spain last night Fiji were set to top Pool B with New Zealand second provided they beat France in the final match of the night.

That would set the Kiwis up for a likely quarterfinal against Canada or Argentina, and Tietjens will have them on notice after an opening night reminder of how fickle sevens can be.

A sudden shower, a fired up Fiji and a worryingly frequent lapse in discipline saw captain DJ Forbes' side fluff their opening lines.

"We prepared really well for the Fiji game, but what was quite disruptive right before that game was the rain coming down," Tietjens said of the 12-7 first up loss.

"We had guys coming back in changing their boots and it changed the game a little.

"Then one or two mistakes, when the weather comes in like that it can be a real leveller and I always knew it was going to be close.

"They took their opportunity and having someone in the bin when they scored their first five-pointer was a concern to an extent. Discipline can cost you those games."

For all the talk about the greasy conditions, Tietjens will be most annoyed that Scott Curry threw an arm out to disrupt a Fijian chaser.

It was a minor incident, but hinted at a recurring theme after New Zealand saw two players suspended in Las Vegas during their last tournament.

"Just those little things like that. I didn't look at it too much," Tietjens said. "But right at the end that fifty-fifty pass [by Akira Ioane] when we had the momentum in those last plays. You have to be a lot more patient, hold onto the ball a few more phases.

"That's how close it is, six or seven of the teams [can win this]. Even France tonight, if it rains, you miss a couple of tackles and the game's going to be tough."

That plea for accuracy and discipline will be the guts of Tietjens' overnight sermon, but he wasn't hitting any panic buttons and was pleased with the way his side bounced back to thrash Spain 55-0 in scoring nine tries during their second match.

That included a hat-trick of tries to speedster Sherwin Stowers, a brace to Tim Mikkelson and some encouraging signs from playmaker Tomasi Cama, who skipped the first match to preserve his tender calf strain.

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"Junior [Cama] hasn't played for six or seven weeks and hadn't been able to do any running because of his calf injury, so I'm really mindful of that and he's not game conditioned yet," Tietjens said.

"It's giving him bits here and there and I made him play the entire game there [against Spain], so that will help him along the way."

New Zealand will be hoping Cama can get big men like Ioane, Bryce Heem, Ben Lam and impact men Ambrose Curtis and George Tilsley firing today.

If they don't then the other quarterfinalists Fiji, South Africa, England, Samoa, Australia and Argentina all look capable.

One team who won't be in contention is last year's finalists Kenya after back to back losses to Samoa and Australia.

NEW ZEALAND RESULTS

New Zealand 47 (Tim Mikkelson, Sherwin Stowers, DJ Forbes 2, Bryce Heem, George Tilsley, Akira Ioane tries, Gillies Kaka 4 cons, Tomasi Cama 2 cons) France 0. HT: 17-0.

Fiji 12 (Emosi Mulevoro, Samisoni Viriviri tries, Mulevoro con) New Zealand 7 (Sherwin Stowers try, Gillies Kaka con). HT: 5-0

New Zealand 55 (Sherwin Stowers 3, Tim Mikkelson 2, Ben Lam, Scott Curry, Ambrose Curtis, George Tilsley tries, Tomasi Cama 4 cons, Gillies Kaka con) Spain 0. HT: 27-0

- The Dominion Post

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