Waikato lose fi­nal as sev­ens curse con­tin­ues

Matamata Chronicle - - Motoring - AARON GOILE

It was ly­ing tantalisingly there to be bro­ken, but in the end the Mt Maun­ganui curse had the fi­nal say yet again, as Waikato came up just short of the na­tional men’s sev­ens ti­tle at the week­end.

Look­ing the form team of the week­end’s cham­pi­onship at Ro­torua In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium and aim­ing to re­claim the crown they won two years back, Waikato had to set­tle for sec­ond place af­ter de­fend­ing champs Coun­ties Manukau clung on 14-7 in the fi­nal on Sun­day evening.

It con­tin­ues a stun­ning 20-plusyear hoodoo which has seen no side able to be­come na­tional cham­pi­ons af­ter winning the un­of­fi­cial lead-up tour­na­ment at Blake Park the week­end prior - where Waikato had seen off Coun­ties 28-7 in the semi­fi­nals.

Waikato had had a bril­liant sev­ens sea­son, notch­ing 15 wins from 15 in winning the North­ern Re­gion Sev­ens in Cam­bridge, the Mt Maun­ganui tour­na­ment, then get­ting to the fi­nal of the na­tion­als.

With plenty of sev­ens nous in co-coaches Roger Ran­dle and Waisake Masirewa, the play­ers put on a fine show­ing at the week­end, with Zac Guild­ford co­cap­tain­ing the side. The former All Black’s workrate and op­tion tak­ing was im­pres­sive, and he had plenty of help from the likes of fly­ers Sevu Reece and Iliesa Ratuva Tavu­yara - who both starred in the Mitre 10 Cup last year - fel­low Fi­jians Atu and Luke Masirewa, and Isaac Te Ta­maki, who has been in and out of the All Blacks Sev­ens side.

Reece opened the scor­ing with a hack of a loose ball, a beau­ti­ful scoop-up and a 50-me­tre scorch to the line, be­fore Sher­win Stow­ers hit back and made it a 7-7 half­time score.

The de­pend­able Te Ta­maki pulled off a try-sav­ing tackle early in the sec­ond spell, and with both teams out on their feet, it was Coun­ties who hit the lead through Peni Buakula.

Waikato had a penalty on half­way af­ter the hooter, burst­ing through the mid­dle of the park on tired legs, but a loose ball close to the line ended their hopes of send­ing the fi­nal to ex­tra time.

MARK TAY­LOR/FAIR­FAX NZ

Former All Black Zac Guild­ford led from the front well, but Waikato came up just short at the sev­ens na­tion­als in Ro­torua at the week­end.

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