UR7s Columnist in Queenstown with Maui Bay Estates. A record 6500-strong crowd enjoyed the sight of both local teams - Southland and Otago - making the top eight of the New Zealand National Sevens at Queenstown. In glorious sunshine the two southernmost teams were joined by North Harbour, Northland, Taranaki, Wellington and top seed Auckland with Waikato, one of the favourites, and Canterbury both missing out. Southland and Bay of Plenty caused the biggest surprises on Day One, with the latter topping the 'group of death' ahead of Taranaki, Counties-Manukau and Canterbury.
UR7s Columnist in Queenstown with Maui Bay Estates.
A record 6500-strong crowd enjoyed the sight of both local teams - Southland and Otago - making the top eight of the New Zealand National Sevens at Queenstown.
In glorious sunshine the two southernmost teams were joined by North Harbour, Northland, Taranaki, Wellington and top seed Auckland with Waikato, one of the favourites, and Canterbury both missing out.
Southland and Bay of Plenty caused the biggest surprises on Day One, with the latter topping the 'group of death' ahead of Taranaki, Counties-Manukau and Canterbury.
Former All Black Roger Randle, the Waikato coach, said they were disappointed with the day.
"We got our game going in the last match but there were too many errors and discipline was poor earlier in the day. We gave away too many penalties and both Northland and Southland deserved their wins."
Southland raced out to a 14-0 lead over Waikato and finished with a comfortable 31-21 victory after the Mooloo men had earlier lost 7-17 to Northland.
The men from the deep south also recorded a narrow 12-5 win over Manawatu but lost their final match to Northland, who themselves beat Waikato but lost to Manawatu.
"We had a good start then a close loss but the boys put it together in the do-or-die match against Southland so we're pleased," said Northland forward Will Whetton. "In the last couple of tournaments against Waikato we have had a big loss then got closer so we had a bit of belief that we could win on the bigger stage. Our combinations are starting to work out too.
The son of former All Black Gary Whetton said he was enjoying the rugby sevens environment.
"Yeah it's great, especially the extra space, and I got a couple of tries today which was also nice but fitness is always the key," said Whetton. "We'll chill out tonight with a bit of a singalong with the guitar. It's important to swith off so we can switch back on tomorrow morning."
Otago, last year's finalist, demolished Wairarapa-Bush 49-0 before a narrow 21-19 victory over North Harbour and a 19-19 draw with Hawke's Bay saw them make the Cup round.
"I'm pleased with Day One as everyone got some game time and we've qualified for the top eight which was our first objective," said coach Roy Hawker. "We have four guys back from last year so we have been able to build the team around the likes of Matt Faddes, who scored two tries in the last match, Brad Weber and Paul Grant.
"The home crowd is something we will miss next year so we want to give them something to cheer about tomorrow."
With the tournament being moved by teh NZRU to Rotorua next year - after 10 years in the resort town - the locals filled the embankment and ensured a brisk turnover of whitebait fritters, washed down with the famous Speights.
Defending champions Auckland, after a slow start, swept aside Tasman 36-7 and Wellington 40-10 and are the team to beat on Day Two.
With three current All Blacks Sevens players - Ben Lam, Milford Keresoma and Iopu Iopu - and former stars Ed Cocker and Orene Ai'i in the side, the Aucklanders were impressiveas they hunt a three-peat.
Coach Paul Feeney said he was very pleased with the match against Wellington.
"We started scratchily against South Canterbury but our performances got better and better throughout the day. We took some good options and scored some really good tries against Wellington."
However, there are question marks over the injured Cocker and Keresoma.
"Ed took a big knock couldn't move his arms for a while and Milford has a chest infection so he's in bed early. We'll make a decision on both of them in the morning after a night's rest," said Feeney.
"But Iopu is a junior Ed Cocker with a big engine, and he's quick, and scored a couple of great tries against Wellington. Orene (Ai'i) and Rocky (Khan) are both very experienced which helped our game as well.
Meanwhile, Auckland's aim of a double took a blow as their women suffered a 15-7 loss to Waikato, although both teams are still likely to make the final tomorrow.
Tries to Carla Hohepa, sister Chyna and Francea Hansen gave the Lady Mooloos a deserved victory over the Aucklanders who are laden with New Zealand representatives.
Play starts at 9:05 on Sunday with the final match scheduled for 6:35.
Auckland v North Harbour
Bay of Plenty v Southland
Northland v Taranaki
Otago v Wellington
Tasman v Wairarapa Bush
Counties-Manukau v Manawatu
Waikato v Canterbury
Hawke's Bay v South Canterbury
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