Otago women’s side eighth, men 10th at national championships

Otago player Alena Saili fends off a Bay of Plenty defender during the national sevens tournament...
Otago player Alena Saili fends off a Bay of Plenty defender during the national sevens tournament in Tauranga yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
The Otago sides produced a mixed bag of performances at the national sevens tournament in Tauranga over the weekend.

After losing every game on the first day of the tournament on Saturday, the men played better yesterday  to finish 10th.

The women won through to the quarterfinals after winning two of three games on Saturday but failed to fire yesterday and ended up in eighth.

With a touch more luck, the women could have made it through to the top four but depth was tested and a couple of injuries caught up with the team.

The men picked up a 29-5 win over Manawatu in the bottom half of the draw yesterday and then in the plate semifinal won 12-7 over Canterbury in a match with plenty of whistle and mistakes.

It played Auckland in the plate final, for ninth and 10th, and lost 22-14.

With a slice of good fortune Otago could have made the top half of the draw after Saturday’s games.

It led Auckland 14-12 at halftime in its opening game thanks to two tries by Taylor Haugh but could not hold on against a more powerful side.

Otago had some half chances but its execution was not quite good enough. It then lost 28-21 to Waikato so was not far away from one of the stronger sides in Tauranga.

With Southland then upsetting Auckland, Otago could have made it into the top half if it had beaten its southern rival in the side’s last game of the day by a big score.

Otago failed to take its chances and Southland took the ones which came on offer.

Otago’s Ben Miller was over the tryline at the end of the first half against Southland only for the ball to be knocked out of his hands as he tried to get around under the posts.

Southland then scored early in the second half and Otago was not quite accurate enough to get up and win the game.

Taylor Haugh impressed while Roman Blackman also ran hard and Charles Elton got through some grunt work. But precision is needed when playing a possession-based game and Otago did not have enough of that.

The women’s side started off well and caused something of an upset in beating Canterbury 24-12 as it defended well and took the chances on offer.

It then was hammered 41-0 by Auckland but had its eye on the prize as it knew it had to beat Taranaki to qualify for the quarterfinals.

It duly did this with a 26-15 win.

Yesterday, Otago lost its chance to go further when it went down 19-12 to Bay of Plenty in the quarterfinal. The home team burst out of the blocks and Otago took a while to get going. But Otago scored tries through Julia Gorinski and Amy du Plessis and was pressing to search for a third try near the end when a contentious call went against Otago.

In its later games, Otago lost 19-10 to Counties-Manukau and then went down 31-17 in the game for seventh and eighth against Wellington.

Last year’s losing finalist, Tasman, beat Counties-Manakay 12-7 to win the men’s title while Manawatu downed Waikato by the same score  to win its second women’s title in a row.

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