After a record 142 matches the 2016 Condor Sevens Champions have been crowned at Sacred Heart College in Auckland. Hamilton Boys' High School have successfully defended the title they captured in Kelston a year ago while St. Mary's College have created history for a Wellington school by winning the girls title for the first time. It was an action-packed day in tropical sun.
Tuga Mativa was approached by a friend in 2015 offering him a chance to mentor the St. Mary's College First XV and Sevens teams. The Ories premier winger was initially reluctant, but after some serious arm twisting accepted the job. Just over 12 months later St. Mary's are the National Champions defeating Hamilton Girls' High School 19-17 in the final.
Hamilton controlled the ball initially shifting it from side to side and breaking through when tournament MVP Jazmin Hotham scampered away.
St. Mary's were nervy, overthrowing a lineout and spilling the ball close to the line twice. Dhys Faleafaga and Cheyne Copeland were the guilty party after bustling runs.
Captain Monica Tagoia eventually settled the apprehension when she powered over. Copeland converted and it was 7-5.
Lyric Faleafaga beat an opposing defender with a left-foot step to make it 12-5. St. Mary's hassled Hamilton into errors with some punishing defense and when Ivana Samani scored from a Copeland break St. Mary's looked home and hosed.
Hamilton showed their mettle and rallied, but their last try to Te Mai Ora Olsen-Baker was on the siren and two wobbly conversions to St. Mary's was the difference.
Mativa was naturally delighted with his girls achievement.
"We started in Division II in Wellington and won the Condors down their last year. We came up to Auckland for a bit of fun and learned a lot. We put some structures in place, built numbers and we are blessed with some great talent. I am a really proud coach," Mativa enthused.
Earlier St. Mary's revenged their Top Four final defeat to Southland Girls' High School winning a blockbuster semi-final 19-5. Lyric Faleafaga scored an early try to put St. Mary's ahead and then shudders were felt around Glen Innes. Ainsleyana Puleiata absolutely smashed a would-be attacker who was left prone on the ground for several minutes. The tackle jolted the beers the Brothers were gently sipping in their house on the hill.
The action got even hotter when Copeland ran down speedster Emma Hopcroft to prevent a try for Southland and then the opposite happened with Hopcroft yellow carded for a high tackle as Copeland galloped away. Puleiata inflicted further pain scoring St. Mary's second try and then Copeland scooted away for the clincher.
Yesterday Tauranga and St. Mary's shared a draw in Pool Play, but despite defending for long periods today, St. Mary's played with greater passion and polish to romp home 41-0. St. Mary's scored three tries in the first-half and four in the second. The try scorers were: Puleiata (2) Dhys Faleafaga, Samani, Tagoia, Lomia Fa'amausili and Copeland.
Hamilton earned their path to the final edging a fast-finishing Motueka High School 19-17 in the semi-final and reversing yesterdays defeat to Southern Cross in the quarters. In the semi-final Hamilton charged ahead three tries to one with Hotham, Arorangi Tauranga and Lonita Ngalu scoring tries.
Hotham's thrilling 85-meter try avoiding four defenders on a diagonal ran was one of the best tries of the day. The outstanding Sydnee Wilkins scored two late tries for Motueka, but the clock proved to be an enemy.
It was a top afternoon for Hamilton BHS coach Nigel Hotham. In addition to his daughter winning girls MVP, Nigel and his long-time associates Greg Kirkham and Logan Asplinwon their fourth Condors.
Hamilton silenced the home crowd early defeating Sacred Heart College 14-5 in the quarter-final. Joshua Moorby scored two quick tries to ensure Sacred Heart was chasing the whole time. Despite Hamilton conceding a yellow card and a try to Lemeki Namoa, Sacred Heart lacked accuracy and fell short.
In the semi-finals, Hamilton met Rotorua and powered four tries to one ahead at the interval. Kieran Lee, Tevita Fa'ukafa and Charlie Lawrence were full of running and each scored tries. Rotorua launched a desperate rally sparked by a Jayden Sargent try and some inspired play by Michael Vaeno and Viliami Tosi, but fell to Hamilton at the same stage for a second successive year.
Rotorua Boys' High School had foiled an impressive Liston College 33-17 in the quarter finals. Liston is a rapidly improving school out in West Auckland - so long the rugby domain of Kelston BHS. They forced Rotorua to hit top gear at times. Hayze Perham scored two tries for Rotorua and Kaleb Trask set up a delightful try for Jake Quin with a debt chip kick. Anzelo Tuitavuki shined for Liston. He scored two tries, though one was from an apparent knock-on, but there was no dispute about his 75-meter effort earlier in the game.
Tauranga Boys' College continued their stellar tourney punishing a ragged Kelston BHS 26-5 in the quarter-finals. Tauranga was never in danger of losing the game and tries were scored by Leroy Carter, Gordie Lloyd, Harry O'Dea and Keita Yamamoto. In the semi-finals Fielding proved too strong with Fijian flyers Mosese Dawai and Vili Koroi in damaging form.
Feilding was anything but comfortable winners in their quarter final against St. Pats Town, recovering from 12-0 down to win. Billy Procter and Sia Paese struck in the first period for Town, but Feilding stayed in the hunt and took the lead when NZ Schools rep Vili Koroi dashed 85-meters, changing speed several times to outgun the Town defense. Feilding's other tries were scored by Hunter Aiken, Dawai and Jack Kinder.
Sacred Heart proved to be a great venue and will host the tourney for the next two years. They could for 289.
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