Otago women finish just short of goal

Auckland player Lara Diamond-Brahne fends off Otago’s Zoey Flockton during the quarterfinals of...
Auckland player Lara Diamond-Brahne fends off Otago’s Zoey Flockton during the quarterfinals of the women’s national sevens in Rotorua yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
A tough run of matches resulted in both Otago sides battling at the  national sevens tournament in Rotorua over the weekend.

The women finished seventh, while the men were tied for 11th.

After emerging from a tough pool, the Otago women ended one place short of their goal of a top-six finish.

Despite being well beaten by Waikato, 31-0, the side claimed wins of 33-0 and 17-7  over Poverty Bay and Canterbury.

That meant  Otago came up against Auckland  which won 33-0 in the quarterfinals.

It was then beaten by Wellington by the same scoreline in the plate semifinals.

The team bounced back in its final match, though, beating Canterbury for the second time  during the weekend, this time  10-5.

Co-coach David Latta said the  players  were happy with how it had gone, particularly given the teams it ended up playing.

"We got on probably a tough side of the draw once we got through," he said.

"But that’s the way it goes; you’ve got to play those really good teams.

"We battled a wee bit with them, but [I’m] very proud of the girls. They did an exceptional job."

He said the level of play was high and the team had connected well given its only other games came in a regional tournament at the end of last year. Sam Hollows, Jess Drummond, Risi Pouri-Lane and Mikayla Latta were among those he felt stepped up.

He also gave special mention to Kiana Wereta,  usually a back, who played nearly every minute of every game in the front row and had an outstanding tournament.

A 20-14 loss to Hawke’s Bay in pool play was the match which hurt the Otago men’s team.

After beating Manawatu 26-19, it was then  beaten 40-7 by North Harbour.

Needing to beat Hawke’s Bay to advance, it led 14-5 at the break before conceding three second-half tries and failing to score itself. Otago bounced back with a 24-0 win over Northland in the bowl quarterfinals, but was tripped up by Canterbury in 22-12 in the bowl semifinals.

In the women’s section, Manawatu  won a thrilling final 17-15  against Waikato.

Manawatu held a narrow lead most of the way, before an Ariana Bayler try gave Waikato a 15-12 lead late in the second half.

However, Manawatu hit back late, scoring a try with time almost up to  claim victory.

Waikato went one better in the men’s final, edging Tasman 21-17.

It led 14-5 at the break and while Tasman was able to hit back twice, it never relinquished its lead.

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