Former Dunedin loose forward Mark Atkins inspired Taranaki to
a long overdue win in the sevens in Queenstown last night.
Atkins, who played for the Dunedin club as recently as last
year, scored a hat-trick in the 32-17 win over North Harbour
in the final.
It was a first national sevens championship for Taranaki
since it won the second of back-to-back titles in 1982.
The amber and blacks were somewhat under the radar going into
the tournament, with many tipping Auckland, Harbour or home
side Otago to take the honours.
But with Atkins and Seta Tamanivula providing power,
mop-headed Warwick Lahmert pulling the strings, Beudein Waaka
showing his pace and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis and Jackson Ormond
providing valuable assistance, Taranaki proved to have the
It streaked to a 17-0 lead at halftime, capitalising when
Harbour lost Joshua York to the sin bin for a nasty spear
tackle on Lahmert.
Atkins then had his second and third tries and, at 27-0, it
was game over. Harbour scored a couple of consolation tries
but the evening belonged to the 'Naki.
Lahmert credited the side's patience and work at the
breakdown for the victory.
''We had the same game plan all day and it obviously
worked,'' he told Sky Sport after the final.
Taranaki had co-coaches Ben Sounness and former Southland
back Willie Rickards, both of who have played for national
coach Gordon Tietjens.
''No-one expected us to get this far but those two made sure
we had the talent and the skills to do it. They've been
awesome,'' Lahmert said.
Harbour would have been disappointed to fade after an
otherwise impressive day. It beat Auckland 21-19 in the
battle of the bridge, then beat Bay of Plenty 24-14 in the
David Raikuna was a one-man band at times, though Tevita Li
showed outstanding pace and Kyle Nu'uali'itia was useful.
The underachiever of the weekend was probably Auckland. The
defending champion was tipped as the pre-tournament favourite
but did not even qualify for the major semifinals.
Auckland, stacked with athletes who seemed more concerned
with individual glory than constructive team play, barely
squeezed past South Canterbury on the opening day, then
stumbled to North Harbour in the first knockout round.
Recovering to pip Southland 26-12 and then beat Wellington
40-20 in the plate final was probably cold comfort for the
Southland shaped as something of a Cinderella story for a
The Stags, who have always been as warmly supported as Otago
in Queenstown, opened with a win over Manawatu, and then
Inspired by Auckland ring-in Gareth Williams-Spiers, the
experienced Bryan Milne, towering Fijian Josh Seru and
talented playmakers Scott Eade and Taylor Adams, Southland
led Bay of Plenty 12-0 yesterday before fading to lose 28-19.
Another loss, to Auckland in the plate semifinal, brought an
unfortunate end to what had been a promising tournament.
Hawkes Bay, another side which promised much but did not
quite deliver, thumped Manawatu 38-7 in the bowl final, while
Counties-Manukau beat a disappointing Canterbury side 27-12
in the shield final.
Women's sevens made a welcome appearance at the tournament,
with a round robin featuring six teams followed by a straight
Manawatu was a class act, winning all six of its round robin
games before flattening Waikato 36-17 in the final.
Selica Winiata was the star performer for Manawatu, backed up
by Hayley Hutana.