Taranaki at sixes and sevens
Taranaki's men's and women's sevens teams have qualified for next month's national tournament but have plenty of work to do if they are to be competitive with the top teams.
The Taranaki men finished third to safely make it to Queenstown but were below par, especially in their first outing at the central region tournament in Palmerston North on Saturday when they lost 33-12 to Manawatu.
A harsh decision to yellow card forward Nemia Soqeta for a high tackle, which only made contact with an opponent's chest, late in the first half cost Taranaki. But they only had themselves to blame for the loss after missing too many first-up tackles while their passing and general play lacked accuracy.
While they bounced back to easily account for Wairarapa Bush 43-7 in their second pool match, Taranaki again faltered against Hawke's Bay, losing 14-12 to end their chances of making the final.
It could have been different had the referee awarded a clear try to Soqeta but Taranaki again suffered through poor patches of play.
Their one-win, two-loss record put them in a playoff for third, a match they won easily 29-0 against a tired-looking Wairarapa Bush.
Nexans Olex Taranaki coach Willie Rickards conceded his side made too many elementary mistakes to fulfil their goal of winning the tournament.
"We didn't start well, so we have to look at how we prepared. I felt, as the day went on, we made some really good progress. We started a different team in every one of the games, which was our goal."
Several players performed well, including Telly Hemopo, Seta Tamanivalu and Nathan Hohaia, but it appears the side needs more time to develop combinations.
"One-on-one tackles really hurt us over the whole day," Rickards said.
"We talked a lot about the tackler getting up and trying to slow the ball, as well as our line speed. Maybe we put too much focus on that."
The Taranaki women's team bounced back after being humbled 38-0 by Manawatu to beat Hawke's Bay 19-10 and Wellington 19-12.
Sixteen-year-old Michaela Blyde was central in both victories, scoring a couple of excellent tries.
The women's team, coached by Brendan Haami, would be satisfied with qualifying for the nationals, even though they were beaten 24-0 by Manawatu in the final, given how young the squad is.
Taranaki Daily News