No joy for Waikato teams at sevens

BEN STRANG
Last updated 10:54 13/01/2014

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Waikato's women were knocked out in yesterday's semifinals of the national sevens tournament in Rotorua, failing to overcome close rivals Auckland.

Having lost to Auckland three times in the build-up to the national tournament, Waikato were beaten twice more on Saturday and Sunday at Rotorua International Stadium.

After a 29-7 loss in pool play, Waikato was vastly improved in the Cup semifinal yesterday afternoon, drawing with Auckland 12-12.

However, standout Auckland and New Zealand player Kayla McAlister sealed a win in extra time for Auckland, running the ball straight from the kickoff and dotting down out wide.

Waikato had started the match with a bang. Honey Hireme managed to break a tackle inside her own 22m, and streaked clear to score the opening try.

It didn't take long for Auckland to reply, Bella Milo putting Auckland into the lead after scoring under the posts.

Try-scoring machine Lara Diamond-Brahne made sure Auckland had the momentum heading into half time, notching her ninth try of the tournament just before the break.

Neither side could dominate in the second spell, until Waikato held on to possession for a brief period with a minute to play. They eventually found the numbers out wide through Hireme and Francea Hansen, before cutting the ball inside for Tenika Willison to score.

Chelsea Alley kicked the conversion as time expired to tie things up, and send the match to extra time.

That's when McAlister stood up, sending her Auckland team into the final.

The Waikato men had a tournament to forget, beaten 20-17 by Otago, 33-5 by Hawke's Bay and 25-5 by Manawatu in pool play on Saturday.

Yesterday it didn't get any better, beaten 19-17 by Southland in the Bowl quarterfinal, before having their first win in the tournament against Tasman in the Shield semifinal, 29-12.

Waikato had small consolation with victory in the Shield final, beating Mid Canterbury 34-7 off the back of a Rory Grice hat-trick, and earning some silverware.

Coach Roger Randle said his team struggled through the tournament, but was pleased with his young players.

"When you have Declan O'Donnell and Joe Webber out just before the tournament, and then we lose our captains Kylem O'Donnell and Jono Malo in the first two games, it was always a struggle," he said.

"But to see guys like DJ Collier and Regan Ware step up, and even Brodi McCurran and Chad Bracey who haven't had much exposure to this level. I was pleased with that."

With an injury curse dealing to the team's captains, Kane Adams was named team CEO.

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"Whoever was captain was getting injured, so we named Kane the CEO and that seemed to solve the problem."

Declan O'Donnell and Joe Webber will be training with the All Blacks Sevens team this week, despite missing the national tournament.

Wellington took out the men's title, beating Auckland 26-17 in the final, while Manawatu Auckland in the women's final, 19-12, to retain their title.

ben.strang@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- © Fairfax NZ News

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