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Norths and Ories win opening leg sevens tournaments

The Northern United Men’s side and Oriental-Rongotai Women’s team were the winners of the opening leg of the American Ambassador’s Sevens tournament at Onepoto Park today.

But only just. Both sides survived second half comebacks in their finals and won by a thread.

Norths beat Oriental-Rongotai 15-14 in the Men’s final, hanging on with desperate defence and a player down and in the sin-bin over the final minute of the final that ended with a match-saving tackle and turnover in the far corner.

Earlier, Norths had scored two first half tries to lead Ories 10-0, playmaker Esi Komaisavai scoring early and then Johnny Teleaga finishing off a 90-metre counterattack and storming run up the left flank by Ropati So’oalo (right).

Ories scored first in the second half to close to 10-7, but Norths replied through Losi Filipo. Ories then broke through up towards the 22 and try-scorer Filipo tackled a player without the ball and was sin-binned and a penalty try was awarded making it 15-14. A final flourish by Ories came up short to the relief of the defending champions.

Ories beat Marist St Pat’s 31-28 in the Women’s final, surviving a withering comeback in the second half that very nearly won the game but for time running out.

The Magpies, with two Norths guest players in their line-up in Vaine Marsters and Kolora Lomani, leapt to a four tries to one halftime lead, which included two tries to Ayesha Leti-l’iga and one each to Marsters and Mena Tuamaii, and one to MSP to Ana Puleiata who is returning to rugby after a long knee injury.

Early in the second half, Lomani sped away to score again for Norths and it was seemingly game over at that stage. But MSP came roaring back with three consecutive tries, all converted, and had all the momentum when fulltime was rung.

There were no other Women’s playoffs contested, with HOBM beating Petone by default in the third place match and Avalon beating OBU by default in the fifth v sixth game.

There were several Men’s competition knockout fixtures.

The Men’s Cup semi-finals saw contrasting wins for winners Norths and Ories.

Norths beat Petone 43-0. Following an early injury break for attention to a Petone player and the sinbinning of Bruce Kauika-Petersen for an unrelated incident, Norths scored three first half tries in the first half. Norths added another four tries in the second half, with the Higgins brothers both prominent on the scoreboard. Older brother and established Premier player Kienan was joined by College Sport Wellington Rugby Player of the Year nominee Riley.

Ories beat last year’s series winners Hutt Old Boys Marist 31-19 in the other Cup semi-final. Ories scored three tries to one in the first half, before Fereti Soloa struck for the Eagles to close the gap and then Ories pulling away to score twice more by fulltime to take it.

Petone would go on and beat HOBM 19-17 in the Plate decider for third and fourth.

The Upper Hutt Rams held on to beat Old Boys University 14-12 in the Shield Final, in another a closely fought final match of the day for these teams. This match was moved early on to another field owing to an injury to a Rams player. Upper Hutt led 7-5 at halftime, and then 14-5 with their second try, but OBU brought on fresh legs off the bench and scored their second try to make it a tight finish. Dan Schrijvers (Rams) and Sam Reid (OBU) were key players for their teams in this and earlier games.

Johnsonville beat Stokes Valley 30-12 to win the Bowl Final, while Poneke defeated MSP 19-12 with a last-try play to win the Boot Final.

In previous semi-finals, the Rams had beaten Stokes Valley 36-12 and OBU had defeated Johnsonville 21-14.

Pool play started at 9am in overcast conditions that were to hang around all day, and a theme of the round-robin matches was close fought games and several last-play results.

Some early results that helped determine the finishing order of the two Men’s pools included OBU beating HOBM 12-7, Johnsonville beating Marist St Pat’s 22-17, and a bit later Stokes Valley beating Poneke 21-19 and Petone edging OBU 22-19.

Pool A was tied at the top between HOBM and Petone, but HOBM finished top (and avoided Norths in the Cup semis) because they had beaten Petone 24-5 in the morning. OBU were third in Pool A, followed by Stokes Valley fourth and Poneke fifth.

Pool B was clear-cut, with unbeaten Norths scoring 135 points and conceding 5 in their four games. They beat Johnsonville 36-5, Ories 29-0 (later to meet them in the final), the Upper Hutt Rams 41-0 and MSP 29-0. Ories were second in Pool B, with the Rams third, Johnsonville fourth and MSP 5th.

In the Women’s six-team pool, Ories won all five games, while MSP, who’s team included such players as Puleiata (see above), her NZ U21 netball teammate Paris Lokotui and Otago Spirit player Maddie Feaunati, also won all games except to Ories who won their first match 24-10.

The second and deciding leg of the American Ambassador’s series is scheduled for next Saturday at Maidstone Park, Upper Hutt.

Men’s Pool results:

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