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Short Passes 21 October

Another blockbusting game by Lions No. 8 Teariki Ben Nicholas on Saturday – he would be a worthy pick-up by a Super Rugby side when the squads are confirmed soon. PHOTO: Mike Lewis Pictures.

It was a case of one from two for the Wellington teams in the National Provincial Championship semi-finals on Saturday.

The Wellington Lions beat Canterbury 30-19 to book a final in Nelson against the Tasman Mako. The Lions burst the game open late in the first half with consecutive tries to take a 17-0 lead into halftime. This became 24-0 early in the second half and it was game over. But was it?

The yellow seats army were put through their paces as Canterbury came back to score three consecutive tries to close the game. Luckily for Lions fans they regrouped and scored once more and flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop knocked over a dropped goal to seal it.

There was almost a boilover on the cards in Blenheim in the other semi-final, with Auckland leading Tasman 6-3 at halftime and still ahead by 3 midway through the second half when Hutt Old Boys Marist left wing Salesi Rayasi almost pulled off a freaskish play that would have stretched Auckland’s lead and from there who knows what might have happened. Rayasi kicked the ball ahead in the act of being tackled on the sideline for his teammate to run on to, collect and score off. Replays showed his kick had just touched the chalk of the sideline and Tasman escaped with a lineout. They went on to score two late tries to win 18-9.

A false start for OBU’s Wes Goosen, who remains stuck on 49 appearances for the Lions after being a late withdrawal ahead of the semi-final. Hooves crossed that can bring up that milestone in the final.

Heading into the final, who would be your Wellington Lions Player of the Year?

The Wellington Pride‘s season came to an end on Saturday, beaten at Eden Park for the second time this year in their Premiership semi-final. However their campaign should be marked off as a success given that they avoided an immediate return to the Championship, and achieved without several players. Coach Ross Bond had to manage without Black Fern’s Marcelle Parkes and Monica Tagoai, the experienced Acacia Te Iwimate, and blockbusting prop Dora Laupola. On the flip side the positives included excellent contributions from newbies Kolora Lomani, Emily Dalley, Thamsyn Newton, and Te Amohaere Ngata-Aerengamate, as well as veterans Jackie Patea-Fereti, Sanita Levave, Amanda Rasch and the returning Alice Soper.

And unless someone scores a hatful of tries in one of the two finals this weekend, the most lethal strike weapon in the women’s game – Ayesha Leti-l’iga – will top the try-scoring charts with 12 from just five games played in 2019. Overall she has 41 tries in 31 games at representative level, on top of her remarkable club tally

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Climate change (maybe we can get funding that way), otherwise known as heavy forecast rain, which did come to fruition, put paid to two of the scheduled sevens tournaments in the Hutt Valley on Saturday. Within minutes on Friday afternoon the cancelled emails were sent out for the first leg of the WRFU American Ambassador’s 7s in Wainuiomata and the CSW Hutt Cup/U15s school tournament at Naenae Park.

The Ambassador’s 7s becomes a two-leg tournament, with the next leg at Onepoto Park in a fortnight. The school teams now head into the Condor 7s at the same venue on Labour Day Monday cold. Look for a preview here later in the week. Unfortunate for St Mary’s College – they just want to be able to play some rugby. They are sending an U15 team to the national Condors this year but this team is searching for a game.

The cancellation was a shame as there was a third school sevens tournament played in Masterton on Saturday and organisers of that would have welcomed more entries. Palmerston North Boys’ High School (Boys) and Manukura (Girls) took out the annual Hurricanes Youth Council 7s tournament.

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New Zealand school-boy player Jacob Kneepkens has signed with the All Blacks Sevens for two years.
The Francis Douglas High School 1st XV co-captain will move to Tauranga to join the sevens programme at the end of the school year.
In 2018 Kneepkens was a member of the New Zealand Schools squad, made the tournament team at the Condor Sevens and was MVP at the inaugural Red Bull Ignite7 tournament. The accolades continued this year as he was named in the All Blacks Sevens Development team before returning to play in the New Zealand Schools team for a second campaign.

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Both Heartland Championship finals will be played on the mainland this coming weekend. North Otago will host the Meads Cup final in Oamaru after they beat Wairarapa-Bush and Whanganui tipped over defending champions Thames Valley in Paeroa. The Lochore Cup will be in Greymouth after West Coast beat Poverty Bay, with South Canterbury crossing the main divide for a second successive week after they beat Buller.

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Front page of the Irish Times Sunday morning (NZT)

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Goodbye impartiality.

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An interesting name in the refereeing squads for the upcoming regional Sevens series. Current Black Fern Selica Winiata will swap playing for the whistle at the Central region event at the end of next month, despite no real background in the officiating side of the game. Its an intriguing and curious move on NZR’s part, not in the least in the message it sends to those ambitious referees without a representative playing background.

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Below: Two current New Zealand sports team logos:

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Napier will host the Hurricanes in 2020 when they meet the Sunwolves at McLean Park. The game will kick-off at 4.45pm on 29 February.

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