BOP hit top gear as Counties fall
DEFENDING men’s champions Counties-Manukau made a mess of their sevens title defence, losing twice in three rounds in Rotorua yesterday.
Drawn in a tough pool with 2017 beaten finalists Waikato, Counties-Manukau opened in style with a 45-12 drubbing of Wanganui, then lost 19-12 to Waikato and by the same score to Taranaki.
Waikato and Taranaki had drawn 12-12 in their tournament openers, with Waikato just registering the best points differential in the pool by downing Wanganui 45-5, compared to a 42-5 victory by Taranaki. Second seeds Bay of Plenty romped to three wins, downing Auckland 24-14 in the crucial game in their pool. They had started strongly with a 43-0 win over Mid Canterbury, then produced hard-fought victories over Canterbury (19-10) and Auckland.
Tasman also ran through day one unbeaten, with fourth seeds Manawatu upset first up 19-26 by Otago.
Counties-Manukau fared better in the women’s competition, the defending champions opening with wins over Hawke’s Bay and Southland, before Auckland GETTY IMAGES roughed them up 38-5.
Auckland won all three games on day one, to be in ominous form alongside Waikato, who conceded only five points in their opening two matches. Sixteen men’s teams and 12 women’s teams are competing in the two-day tournament at Rotorua International Stadium.
All Blacks Sevens coach Clark Laidlaw and Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting are in Rotorua, with an eye to finalising their contracted squads for the year.
Both sides are targeting the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in April and the Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Bay Of Plenty flyer Luke Masirewa causes havoc against Auckland in their 24-14 win.
Crystal Mayes makes a break for Manawatu against Wellington.