Monday, 11 December, 2017
Mixed fortunes for Taranaki sevens teams
The Taranaki men’s and women’s sevens teams had mixed results at the Central Region Sevens tournament in Levin on Saturday.
The men’s team finished third to qualify for the Bayleys National Sevens in Rotorua next month but, unfortunately, the women’s team finished fifth and failed to qualify.
The Taranaki men impressed during pool play, going through unbeaten against Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa Bush and Wanganui to qualify top of pool B. As expected, the team’s youth, speed and attacking nature came to the fore, with the side dotting down for 13 tries over the three games – four more than second-placed Hawke’s Bay. The defence was also impressive, Taranaki conceding just 36 points.
In the semifinals, they came up against Manawatu, who finished second in pool A behind Wellington. While Manawatu’s attack in pool play hadn’t been as deadly as Taranaki’s, their defence had been as tight – conceding just 39 points. It turned out to be a titanic battle and, in a thrilling game that went to extra time, Manawatu nabbed a 22-19 win.
Taranaki picked themselves up for the third-fourth playoff and scored a 22-12 win over Hawke’s Bay, to finish third and qualify for the nationals. Wellington won the final against Manawatu 17-7.
Taranaki showed promise throughout the day, with captain Liam Blyde and Brayton Northcott-Hill particular standouts. Latu Vaeno, who is back in Taranaki after playing Mitre 10 Cup rugby on loan for Otago, showed his class and experience on several occasions.
The squad have one more week of training before the break for Christmas. They return to training early in January, with the Bayleys National Sevens on 13-14 January. Taranaki reached the semifinals of the nationals earlier this year, so will be looking to perform as well, if not better.
The women’s team had disruptions before the Central Region Sevens tournament kicked off, with players called in late after three were unavailable.
The young Taranaki side lost all four games against Wellington, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay and Poverty Bay, although the defeat to Poverty Bay was a close affair. A strong Manawatu team went on to beat Wellington 26-5 in the final.
With four teams qualifying for the nationals, Taranaki missed out by finishing fifth.
Despite the disappointment, the team fought hard all day, with captain Jessie Fowell impressive throughout, showing great determination on defence and attack. Youngsters Tiana Davison and Elle Johns also showed promise.