- By Scott MacLean
After a two-year hiatus, the Middlesex County William Wavell Wakefield Cup – the National Club Sevens Championship – returns this weekend. Counties-Manukau’s Karaka club are the hosts, with Wellington Ambassador Trophy winners Paremata-Plimmerton making the journey to try and bring the trophy back to the capital.
Success in the tournament, which brings with it the right to host the following year, isn’t uncommon to Wellington sides; Wainuiomata triumphed in the Bay of Plenty a decade ago, while Norths won it Auckland in 2019. Counties Manukau side Ardmore Marist won it at Porirua Park in 2020 and defended it in 2021 but for various reasons both the 2022 and 2023 editions were cancelled. Karaka are the current Counties champions and have picked up the mantle to run it this year.
The Paremata-Plimmerton side has been self-run under the tutelage of Premier Manager Frazer Edwards, with Premier assistant coach Matt Poutoa coming on board in recent weeks. The pair have been able to name a strong squad and in Poutoa’s words “are looking forward to challenging themselves against the best club 7s team in New Zealand and having fun while they’re at it.”
The squad will be captained by sevens maestro Esi Komaisavai who knows what it takes to win this title, having been part of that Norths side along with Kody McGovern, while both Sam Clarke and Ethan Webster-Nonu have also previously played in this tournament as well. Alex Fidow is another with high-profile 7s tournament experience at the Condor 7s from his days at Scots College while Lions pair Louis Northcott and Joseph Faleafaga are also part of this squad.
Pare-Plim are drawn in Pool B for the 10-team event and face Manurewa, Christchurch Marist Albion, Northcote, and Pukekohe in a rapid-fire schedule that gets underway at 9am and aims to crown the winners before 3pm.
Squad: Caleb Alaga, Keepa Cherrington, Sam Clarke, Darren Falaniko, Joseph Faleafaga, Alex Fidow, Marzy Karim, Esi Komaisavai (c), Kody McGovern, Emery McGill, Louis Northcott, Jake Tibbitts, Knox Tuinasau, Ethan Webster-Nonu (vc)
The Middlesex Cup sevens tournament was hosted by the Middlesex RFC at Twickenham each year from 1925. In 1949 the Middlesex Union offered cups in its name to the “Dominions of Colonies” and Middlesex Wavell Wakefield Cups were accepted by New Zealand, Australia and Rhodesia.
Brought to New Zealand by the manager of the British Lions, L.B. (Ginger) Osborne, in 1950, the tournament was started in Dunedin in 1951 and first won by local club Zingari-Richmond. It fell away in the 1990s and wasn’t contested for a decade up to its revival in 2006.
In 69 years of competition, it has been held by 29 individual winners – 12 from the North Island and 17 from the South Island. It had been held by South Island clubs continuously for more than three decades before Auckland’s Pakuranga won in 2013 to become the first North Island team to prevail since Hamilton Old Boys in 1976.
The host union has stated that a livestream will be available through the Counties Manukau Rugby Facebook page *dependent on weather conditions* This can be found at https://www.facebook.com/countiesrugby
THE PREVIOUS 10 WINNERS HAVE BEEN (NOT PLAYED FOR IN 2012, 2022 or 2023)
2011 Burnham (Canterbury)
2013 Pakuranga (Auckland)
2014 Rangataua (Bay of Plenty)
2015: Wainuiomata (Wellington)
2016: Melville (Waikato)
2017: Eden (Auckland)
2018: Eden (Auckland)
2019: Northern United (Wellington)
2020: Ardmore Marist (Counties Manukau)
2021: Ardmore Marist (Counties Manukau)