Southern short of numbers, not heart

Willie Rickards
Willie Rickards

A depleted Southern side might not have won a pool game at the Middlesex Sevens Cup but they still gained plenty of respect from their coach.

Injuries and a wedding had already decimated Southern's ranks for the unofficial national club championships but things got worse for coach Willie Rickards on the eve of their trip to Auckland when two further squad members pulled out because of work commitments.

That left Rickards with just nine players to take north in what turned out to be a scorching day in Auckland.

Southern, the Dewar Shield champions, started well and drew their first match against Counties-Manukau champions Karaka.

They then had to be beat powerful Auckland side Papatoetoe to have a chance to advance to the semifinals, something they couldn't manage.

From there, Southern were drawn into the bowl section where they beat Bay of Plenty side Te Puna to advance to the final against Manawatu's Kia Toa.

"We only just lost 19-14 and we had a chance to win it against a pretty sharp [Kia Toa] team," Rickards said.

"I was really proud of how our boys went, especially when we only got away with nine players. A few of the guys were having to play all 14 minutes, so it was pretty tough. We really developed some young guys, too."

Rickards was impressed with the form of the Ormond brothers, Jackson and Lewis, who shouldered a lot of the workload.

Host club and defending champions Pakuranga lost the the final of the cup section to Bay of Plenty's Rangataua.

Rangataua picked up the $3000 first prize cheque, as well as an invitation to play in the Central Coast Sevens tournament in Australia and the Fiji Coral Coast Sevens tournament.

As winners, Rangataua also get to host next year's tournament.

Taranaki Daily News