Wellington win gripping Sevens final
January 12, 2014
Wellington prevailed in the Sevens tournament for the first time since 2002 © Getty Images
Wellington won their second National Sevens title in Rotorua on Sunday, beating Auckland 26-17 in a gripping Championship final. Auckland also finished as runners up in the women's final, beaten by Manawatu 19-12 at Rotorua International Stadium.
Wellington had to work hard to earn the victory and almost paid the penalty for two missed opportunities as Auckland threatened a late comeback.
Auckland began smartly, with Ben Lam opening the scoring after three minutes after diving between two defenders to touch down. Wellington then began to control possession, and All Blacks Sevens star Lote Raikabula had his team on the scoreboard after finishing off a slick attacking move. Raikabula went over again a minute later, after Vaea Fifita won the aerial duel for the kick-off before offloading to Hayden Schrijvers, who found Raikabula in open space.
Fifita again played a major role in Wellington's third try just before half-time after unselfishly offloading to Afa Fa'atau, who scored under the posts. After the break, however, he was at the centre of the action for all the wrong reasons. He looked certain to score on the right side but opted to jog for the line and was hauled in and stripped of possession by Akira Iaone.
Iaone took the ball 60-metres to score for Auckland and Ben Lam touched down moments later to bring Auckland within two points at 19-17. That seemed to wake up Wellington and a Greg Foe try off a Tiwi Davies assist settled a thrilling final.
Wellington proved deserving champions - just their second in 40 years - after going through the tournament unbeaten, including a 17-14 triumph over Auckland in pool play.
Manawatu celebrate retaining their Sevens title in Rotorua © Getty Images
Manawatu retained their title in the women's competition on the back of a superb display by Selica Winiata, who scored two tries and led her team to glory 19-12.
Hayley Hutana gave the Green Machine the perfect start two minutes in, after Kristina Sue won the ball in a tackle and passed it on to Crystal Mayes, who found Hutana open on the left. Winiata added the extras and then scored a try of her own four minutes later. Mayes was again the instigator, breaking free on her own 22-metre line with a dummy and handing the ball on to Winiata to streak clear for the try.
Kayla McAlister struck back for Auckland after the restart, finding a gap after the ball had been sent wide and running 70m to score.
After the break Hutana prevented two certain tries for Lara Diamond-Brahne but Auckland finally went over through Linda Itunu after some strong forward play to have get within two points of her Manawatu at 14-12.
Winiata then provided the heroics by grubber kicking through the Auckland defence and dribbling the ball 15 metres to score, capping off a memorable tournament.
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