New Zealand Rugby
Harbour pip Counties to Sevens title
January 11, 2009
Luke Hamilton was in good form for North Harbour as they captured the New Zealand Sevens crown © Getty Images
North Harbour avenged a loss in pool play against Counties-Manukau to win the New Zealand sevens tournament in Queenstown.
North Harbour bounced back from a 17-22 defeat to the South Auckland union on the first day yesterday to win an exciting final 29-26. The two sides were the best outfits on display in the 16-team tournament and played out nail-biting duel which Harbour deservedly won by five tries to four.
They went out to an early 12-0 lead in the final though Counties-Manukau fought back to lead midway through the second half before a 50m try by diminutive back Luke Hamilton put Harbour back in front. Hamilton won the player of the tournament prize, proving size isn't a prerequisite in the sevens game.
North Harbour coach Geoff Alley said his was the fittest side in the tournament and that told in the end. "We just had to eliminate the mistakes. When we played them the first time we gifted them a couple of tries so we knew if we could control the ball then we'd be right," Alley said.
"The fitness really tells. A 10 minutes each way final, guys start to fall off tackles and get a bit tired. "I told our trainer at the start of the season I wanted the fittest team here and that is what he did."
Counties-Manukau made a couple of crucial mistakes in the final and coughed up too much ball. Nafi Tuitavake was a constant threat for Harbour while New Zealand back Tim Nanai-Williams was composed and set up play well while Chad Tuoro was rarely beaten.
It was the bridesmaid tag for the second year in a row for Counties-Manukau after losing to Auckland in the final last year. North Harbour disposed easily of Waikato in their semifinal while Counties-manukau were much too strong for Manawatu.
All Blacks halfback Piri Weepu turned out for Wellington and showed plenty of physicality though he did not have the blinding speed of some on display. Wellington almost knocked out North Harbour in the quarterfinals, losing at the death, 22-19.