The inaugural G.J. Gardner Homes World Schools Sevens was a resounding success at Sacred Heart College in Auckland today. The weather was stunning and the action hot in a tournament that will hopefully grow in stature.
The New Zealand Condors team predictably captured the girls title, but there were plenty of surprises in the Boys Section.
It was an all Kiwi final with the New Zealand Condors and Wasps teams proving too strong for Australia and Samoa. The Condors were crowned inaugural champions after a hard-fought 19-12 win in the finale.
The Wasps began brightly with a breakout, but an errant pass was intercepted by Laruen Balsillie who raced 65-meters for the first try. The Wasps were unperturbed and Ora Williams responded from a scrum. Montessa Tairakena propelled the underdogs into a shock lead when from a static start she waded through traffic and dashed 35-meters to the posts. However Balsillie levelled the scores with her second before the interval.
The second-half was a tight affair with both sides creating chances, but an Alena Saili seven-pointer three minutes before the end proved decisive.
Earlier the Condors were forced to defend for long periods in their last group game against Australia, but were easy winners over Wasps (despite conceding the first try) and Samoa.
Wellington Pride representative Ayesha Leti-iga hit the ground running early scoring two tries against Wasps and adding another double along with Jazmin Hotham and Ainsleyana Puleiata against Samoa.
Against Australia two quick tries by Alena Saili saw the Condors jump to a 12-0 lead, but Australia who played without luck all day kept asking questions of the defense and closed the gap to 12-5. Hotham, who scored a try in every group game, eventually suppressed the Aussies resistance.
Australia scored two tries in two minutes to earn a draw in the first game of the day against Samoa. Ricshay Lemanu from Papatoetoe High School made history by scoring the first try of the tournament and added another one a short time later as Samoa surged ahead early. However Brydie Parker sprinted 65-meters with a minute to go and then finished another breakout to earn a share of the honours.
Wasps comfortably beat Samoa 31-7 with Rina Paraone and Keoria Heyblom scoring two tries each which left the Wasps v Australia game as the key fixture in determining the finalists. In contrast to the Samoa match, Australia kicked ahead with two early tires to Captain Demi Hayes and Millie Boyle. However the Wasps stung back and an inspirational try to Heyblom where she wriggled past three defenders and a late winner for Montessa Tairakena nudged Wasps into the decider.
Australia's heart was eventually rewarded when they reversed a 12-7 halftime deficit to beat Samoa 14-12 in the Plate Final. Demi Hayes scored both tries for Australia.
Group: Australia: 19 v Samoa: 19
Group: New Zealand Condors: 22 v New Zealand Wasps: 7
Group: New Zealand Condors: 34 v Samoa: 0
Group: Australia Girls: 19 v NZ Wasps: 22
Group: Samoa Barbarians: 7 v NZ Wasps: 29
Group: New Zealand Condors: 19 v Australia: 5
Plate Final: Australia: 14 v Samoa: 12
Cup Final: New Zealand Condors: 19 v New Zealand Wasps: 12
The New Zealand Condors started in a hurry, but Australia and Samoa Barbarians had the last say with the latter upsetting the former in the semi-finals and then succumbing to Australia 24-19 in a gripping final.
Sam Wallace was the hero for Australia gritting his teeth and lumbering 65-meters to score a try with the last play when scores were tied at 19-19. Samoa had snatched the lead with two dramatic tries. Godinet Tinei cross-kicked for Tanielu Tele'a who crossed unopposed and the exceptional Siave Togoiu blitzed the defense to thrill the audience for the umpteenth time.
Togoiu had been the catalyst for Samoa's upset of the New Zealand Condors. A stunning four try blitz in the first-half left New Zealand on the canvas. Tries were scored by Johna Mau'u, Logon Fonoti, Tenei and Togoiu for Samoa. New Zealand railed with tries to Josh Moorby, Hoskins Sotutu and Charlie Lawrence, but Togoiu engineered a fifth strike for Samoa and New Zealand was consigned to the Plate.
Australia started with a lacklustre 19-19 draw against the New Zealand Maori. Ariki Hood-Kaitapu scored two outstanding tries for the Maori, responding to tries scored by James Armstrong, Connor Size and Tate McDermott in a largely unflattering performance.
Fast starts were later a feature of Australia's play. The Samoa Barbarians and New Zealand Fijians were convincingly dispatched with Australia only conceding points late in the second-half. Dylan Piestch proved to be an eye-catching talent and scored three tries in those games.
The New Zealand Condors started with routine wins, but a lack of a test would prove telling. To their credit they bounced back hard to capture the Plate beating Fiji by the same score they achieved in the round-robin. Devon Flanders, a standout throughout the day, and Mosese Pepa scored two tries each.
New Zealand Barbarian Matene Ruawai scored two tries in the Bowl final, including a steal from a maul where he then fended off two players rushed 75-meters.
Group: Samoa Barbarians: 31 v New Zealand Maori: 5
Group: New Zealand Fijians: 38 v Cook Islands: 5
Group: Australia: 19 v New Zealand Maori: 19
Group: New Zealand: 40 v Cook Islands: 0
Group: Australia: 33 v Samoa Barbarians: 12
Group: New Zealand Condors: 34 v New Zealand Fijians: 7
Semi-Final: Australia: 22 v New Zealand Fijians: 14
Semi-Final: Samoa Barbarians: 31 v New Zealand Condors: 19
Bowl Final: New Zealand Maori: 34 v Cook Islands: 0
Plate Final: New Zealand Condors: 34 v New Zealand Fijians: 7
Cup Final: Australia: 24 v Samoa Barbarians: 19
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