Above: The two women’s division finalists, winners Manawatu and runners-up Hawke’s Bay.
- By Steven White
- Photos by Andy McArthur.
Hawke’s Bay (Men’s) and Manawatu (Women’s) won today’s revived Central 7s tournament at a cool, showery Massey University.
Both winning teams were convincing winners, both piling on the points and unbeaten all day and winning their finals well.
Hawke’s Bay beat the Manawatu team 31-5 in the men’s final and Manawatu steamed to a 54-0 win over Hawke’s Bay in the women’s final.
The Wairarapa-Bush (men’s) and Whanganui (women’s) finished third.
Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu traded tries early in the men’s final and it was closely fought throughout the first half. Hawke’s Bay scored a runaway try on the stroke of halfback through Elia Bari to go up 12-5.
Turning into a stiff southwesterly wind, Hawke’s Bay scored consecutive tries in the opening couple of minutes of the second half, both involving Kali Mocetadra and John Ika, who helped set one try up for the other.
There was no coming back for Manawatu from there and two more tries were added by the black and whites, with Bari scoring his second and New Zealand U20s XVs flanker Cooper Flanders scoring the final try on fulltime.
Hawke’s Bay had the bye in the prior men’s semi-final round, while Manawatu had defeated Wairarapa-Bush six tries to one, 34-7.
Hawke’s Bay had also earlier beaten Manawatu 40-0 in pool play, as well as defeating Wairarapa-Bush 49-5, so they were deserving winners to take the crown off the absent Wellington who were defending champions from the previous Central 7s tournament in Levin in 2019.
In the Women’s final that preceded the men’s decider, Manawatu defended their title from 2019 by unleashing a torrent of early try-scoring to lead 28-0 at halftime.
Tries to captain Crystal Mayes, hard-running Layla Sae (2) and Alesha Williams gave them their winning lead. Three of these were started from long-range, and Hawke’s Bay had made a couple of searing breaks themselves but all three were cut down by good defence.
Kahurangi Sturmey scored from a turnover off the second half kick-off, Cyclones XVs lock Sam Taylor who was also a strong performer all day finished off a team try and Holly-Rae Mete crossed to bring up the ha on fulltime.
Manawatu had beaten Whanganui seven tries to nil, 45-0, in their women’s semi-final, while Hawke’s Bay had defeated Wairarapa-Bush in the other.
Both Whanganui and Wairarapa-Bush were committed all tournament, as was the Wairarapa-Bush men’s side.
Wairarapa-Bush finished third by default in the men’s grade, as Whanganui were a late withdrawal, leaving just the three men’s teams battling for the silverware.
Their place, from the second round of matches onward, was filled by the Manawatu Fijians to maintain structure. They added an immediate injection of enthusiasm and instead of byes, Wairarapa-Bush Manawatu had another pool game to play.
This tournament and the National Provincial 7s are slated to be back on the calendar for next year, so a return to increased participating unions, namely Wellington, Taranaki, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Poverty Bay and East Coast will be welcome.
The absence today of Wellington in particular, for reasons that aren’t altogether clear, was keenly felt.
Today’s tournament was run well by the MRU and officiated well by the MRRA. It was played in good spirit and there were no incidents to report.
For full scoring results go HERE