Hamilton’s Melville win the 2016 Middlesex Cup

Melville beat Upper Hutt 34-24 in the final of the 2016 New Zealand Club Championship in Wainuiomata yesterday.

The Middlesex Cup

Wainui hosted the event after beating Hutt Old Boys in the final last year at Rangataua in Tauranga – home of the 2014 winners.

It was a bumper year for the Wellington club after they won the 15-a-side club competition as well.

But next year it will be Melville’s turn to host.

Melville are the Waikato club champions after a successful day in Otorohanga back in November.

Hamilton Marist have dominated Waikato club 7s in recent years but with the help of ex-AllBlack7s players Luke Masirewa and Kylem O’Donnell, the Hamilton South club emerged as champions.

That win earned them an invitation to compete for the Middlesex Cup – the beautiful piece of silverware that has been doing the rounds in the North Island since Burnham opened the event up to the best club teams in the whole country back in 2013.

Before that it been a largely South Island event since the 1980s. Interestingly it was another Hamilton club – Old Boys – brought the Cup north in 1978.

Now it is back in the Waikato and we look forward to another great contest next year.

More information about the Middlesex Cup.

Results

Men’s pool matches

Wainuiomata 14 – Melville 10
Rangataua 17 – Poneke 12
Awanui 19 – Mount Maunganui 17
Marist St Pat’s 14 – Hamilton Marist 7
Suburbs 31 –Old Boys University 7
Nelson Wanderers 24 – Tauranga Sports 10
Rangataua 15 – Wainuiomata 12
Melville 35 – Poneke 12
Upper Hutt Rams 14 – Mount Maunganui 7
Karaka 24 – Hamilton Marist
Nelson Wanderers 28 – Old Boys University 12
Suburbs 31 – Tauranga Sports 17
Poneke 24 – Wainuiomata 19
Melville 22 – Rangataua 0
Upper Hutt Rams 34 – Awanui 12
Karaka 17 – Marist St Pat’s 12
Tauranga Sports 21 – Old Boys University 10
Suburbs 29 – Nelson Wanderers 19

Men’s Pool winners

Pool A: Melville
Pool B: Upper Hutt Rams
Pool C: Karaka
Pool D: Suburbs

Women’s

Marist St Pat’s 21 – Wainuiomata 12
Marist St Pat’s 40 – Tauranga Sports 0
Wainuiomata 12 – Tauranga Sports 10
Marist St Pat’s 31 – Wainuiomata 12 (final)

Day Two Results

Men’s Bowl Quarterfinals

Hamilton Marist 26 – Poneke 5
Mount Manganui 14 – Old Boys University 12
Wainuiomata Bye
Tauranga Sports Bye

Men’s Cup Quarterfinals

Melville 31 – Marist St Pat’s 5
Karaka 15 – Rangataua 12
Upper Hutt Rams 29 – Nelson Wanderers 0
Awanui 17 – Suburbs 12

Men’s Shield Final

Old Boys University 31 – Poneke 17

Men’s Bowl Semi-finals

Hamilton Marist 14 – Wainuiomata 7
Mount Maunganui 19 – Tauranga Sports 17

Men’s Plate Semi-finals

Marist St Pat’s 19 – Rangataua 14

Men’s Cup Semi-finals

Melville 19 – Karaka 14
Upper Hutt Rams 28 – Awanui 5

Men’s Bowl Final

Mount Maunganui 31 – Hamilton Marist 10

Men’s Plate Final

Suburbs 21 – Marist St Pat’s 20

Women’s Final (played Saturday)

Marist St Pat’s 31 – Wainuiomata 12

Men’s Cup Final

Melville 34 – Upper Hutt Rams 24

Mount Maunganui take a strong team to Wainuiomata

The Mount 7s team made a clean sweep of the Bay of Plenty’s club sevens tournaments this season winning the Greerton Marist 7s, the Mount Invitational and the Bay of Plenty club champs.

They will take a strong side to the Middlesex Cup Club Nationals at William Jones Park in Wainuiomata this weekend.

Bay of Plenty 7s captain Matty Axtens will lead from the front where he will have the vastly experienced Chris Elvin and current All Black 7s squad member Teddy Stanaway alongside.
Mount Maunganui Sports 7s team
Mount Maunganui Sports Clubs 7s after their victory at the Mount Club 7s
The Bay 7s Isaac Te Aute and Mason Walker should provide the spark in the backline.
The Mount will face tough competition from most of the North Island union’s club champions including Northland’s Awanui, Auckland’s Suburbs, Karaka, Hamilton Marist, Napier Pirates, Upper Hutt Rams, Feilding Old Boys  and last year’s winners Wainuiomata.
Other Bay of Plenty teams Tauranga Sports and 2014 winners Rangataua will also be there.
16 teams are scheduled to compete in total.

Mount Maunganui 7s team

Matty Axtens (c)
Chris Elvin
Teddy Stanaway
Isaac Te Aute
Mason Walker
Owen Karati
Canny Kayes
Chris Elvin
Teddy Stanaway
Masiu Vainikolo
Andy Devoy
Jesse Dodunski
Mason Walker
Isaac Te Aute
Marnus Hanley
Pera Gibbs

Coach: Paul Tietjens
Support crew: Courtney Barrow Fraser
Chris Motu
Kate Niederer

What happened to Taranaki at the Nationals?

Taranaki were one of the form teams heading into the Nationals last weekend but they were bundled out at the Quarter Final stage by the less-fancied Bay of Plenty side.

  • Taranaki were fresh off a win at the Bay of Plenty Invitational the week before at Mount Maunganui.
  • Ex-All Black sevens livewire Kurt Baker and current internationals Beaudein Waaka and Lewis Ormond joined the side that already contained ex-internationals Jackson Ormond, Kylem O’Donnell and Trinity Spooner-Neera.
  • They came out on top of the pool of death registering wins over Hawkes Bay (21-15); Otago (22-19) and Wellington (20-14)
  • They faced the least fancied, lowest ranked side in the Quarter Final and had avoided top seeds Auckland and Wellington.
  • Taranaki lead 16-0 in the first half.

Things were looking very good for the Ben Souness coached team.

But it a dramatic twist, it all fell apart in the dying few seconds of regulation time.

The game was over for all money despite the fact that the home side had scored a try with a little time remaining on the clock because the margin was still more than a converted try. The Bay had to score twice to win.

The commentators had called it. The tweets has called it. This one was over.

Miraculously, the Bay regained their own kick-off and managed to score a try a couple of plays later. But time was up so it didn’t matter.

Or did it?

An interesting thing happened when the try was scored.

Taranaki forward Jesse Parete fell on top of the player after the whistle. There wasn’t much in it but 7s is adjudicated quite strictly in certain areas of the game especially where time wasting and player welfare are concerned and the penalties are harsh.

Time was up but because  the ‘late tackle’ was a penalty offence, Bay of Plenty received the ball on half way … and again they pulled a miraculous re-start and proceeded to score a try to win the game.

Now it was over and a very sharp Taranaki side was out.

Was it the Curse of the Mount?

Some might say it was.

Since its inception 20+ years ago, no team that has won the Bay of Plenty Invitational tournament has gone on to win the Nationals.

It’s just a coincidence really. The teams who make the final often take that form into the Nationals. The previous year Auckland had won at the Mount and they went on to make the final in Rotorua the following week. They were pipped that day by a resurgent Waikato side.

Waikato have won at the Mount only to be beaten in the latter stages at the Nationals.

Perhaps it is some kind of mental fatigue issue?

Sir Gordon Tietjens has often said that he likes to see players back up from one weekend to the next because that’s what happens in the World Series, the tournaments are held in blocks of 2.

Whatever the case, the curse of the Mount remains …

What really happened?

For me it was a double whammy – or a cause and effect situation.

The call on Parete was major. Taranaki outscored Bay of Plenty in regulation time. The game should have been over at that point.

There was no malice. This was not a Richard Lowe / Paul Carozza nose reconstruction situation – just a bit of laziness.

Point One – the cumulative effect

The referee was within his rights to make the call but one had to wonder whether an earlier incident had something to do with it.

Earlier in the 2nd half Kurt Baker pushed Bay stalwart Matt Clutterbuck in the back after the whistle had gone.

It wasn’t much initially except that the one-time AllBlack 7s forward was caught completely unaware and it propelled his head into the head of an opponent.

Clutterbuck was KO’d and had to be helped from the field and Baker received no reprimand.

On slow motion replay it looked quite bad. The whistle had gone and it wasn’t like Baker had momentum – Clutterbuck didn’t even have the ball. There was no need at all to push a player like that. It was just a push but it was more than potentially dangerous on this occasion.

TV commentator Richard Turner seemed like he was going to weigh in but held his tongue concluding with: “that’s all I’ll say about it.” I had the feeling he thought it warranted some action from the officials.

Anyway it was done. No call was made. But perhaps the referee was just a little self conscious about it and determined that he wouldn’t miss another piece of potentially dangerous play.

Point Two – Concentration

Taranaki were playing with a relaxed style. They were very confident and rightly so. Their defence was working well off a solid forward platform. Kurt Baker was proving a handful in a very slick, experienced backline who were scoring tries all day, including this game.

But on reflection, there were 1-2 chinks in the armour.

Taranaki’s experienced captain Jackson Ormond was yellow carded for not putting the ball down immediately following a restart infringement. A rare thing that was probably more about concentration than anything.

The Bay scored while Ormond was off, keeping them in the match at that point. It was a small offence on half way but a one man advantage in 7s often results in at least one try to the opposition.

And this wasn’t a poor Bay side. Clutterbuck was joined by recent All Black 7s forward Teddy Stanaway up front. Playmaker Isaac TeAute has been training with the All Black 7s and so has Mason Walker. Both played for New Zealand at the Central Coast 7s back in November and ex-international Zar Lawrence remains effective in the midfield.

The card to Ormond should have been a standing reminder to the whole team: ‘Stay focused and don’t take unnecessary risks. We’ve got this’.

Bottom line: Parete’s late fall on the try scorer shouldn’t have happened.

But the try before that wouldn’t have happened either against an experienced team that had a 100% focus.

Counties-Manukau time their run perfectly to win the men’s Nationals

The Counties-Manukau men’s team romped home in the final of the 2016 National Provincial Sevens tournament against North Harbour 54-14 off the back of some fast, physical play.

North Harbour had done very well to make the final beating an experienced Wellington side 28-14 in the semis. Whiria Meltzer turned on the brilliance and Renata Roberts-TeNana showed he had come of age.

But they came up against a very well organised Counties-Manukau team who were peaking at the right time.

They had a solid build-up to the Nationals making the final of the Auckland 7s in November. Then backed that up with another final appearance at the Northern Regional Qualifier in Cambridge in December.

At the Bay of Plenty Invitational the weekend before the Nationals Counties registered 2 wins and 2 losses. While physical and competent, they were lacking an edge.

Then All Black 7s and Ex-All Black half back Augustine Pulu joined the team for the Nationals and things started to click.

After relatively straight forward pool matches against Mid Canterbury (47-5) and Wanganui (49-0) Counties out muscled Harbour 26-5.

They had a close quarter final edging a highly skilled Manawatu side 21-19.

They were too good for Bay of Plenty in the semi (31-10) and would have been confident going into their first final since 2009.

Pulu helped to steer the powerful Counties-Manukau runners, directing play and taking on the line.

They racked up 50 points in a one sided affair and Pulu ended the day with the Joe Taiwi Memorial Trophy for best men’s player.

We look forward to seeing him continue his sevens journey in Wellington in 10 days.

Taranaki get All Black 7s boost for the Nationals

Current All Black 7s players Beaudien Waaka and Lewis Ormond and ex-international Kurt Baker have all been added to the Taranaki mens’ 7s team to compete at the Nationals this weekend in Rotorua.

Trinity Spooner-Neera, Kylem O’Donnell and Jackson Ormond were all part of the side that won the Bay Invitational last weekend.

Coaches Ben Souness and Willie Rickards will need the wealth of attacking options these players provide if they are to get through a tough pool with Otago, Wellington and Hawkes Bay.

Taranaki
Pomare Samupo
Josh Dowsing
Trinity Spooner Neera
Stephen Perofeta
Lewis Ormond
Jackson Ormond, Captain
Jesse Parete
Manasa Mataele
Daniel Brooks
Kylem O’Donnell
Kurt Baker
Beaudein Waaka

Auckland men at full strength for the Natioanals

The Auckland mens 7s team go into the Nationals this weekend as top seeds after a convincing performance at the Northern Regional Qualifier.

And when you look at their lineup, they will take some stopping this weekend.

– There’s real pace in Gareth Williams-Spiers and Ed Fidow
– Experience in the halves with Vara Duisokosoko and Rocky Khan
– Power up front with Akira Ione and Mat Matich; and
– All Black 7s star Reiko Ione in the midfield

With South Canterbury, Northland and Bay of Plenty in their pool Auckland should make it through to the Quarter Finals at a canter.

Auckland Men
Akira Ioane
Sam Livingston
Shaun Devine
Rocky Khan (c)
Akuila Rokolisoa
Gareth Williams-Spiers (vc)
Ed Fidow
Rieko Ioane
David Afamasaga
Matt Matich
Vara Duisokosoko
Stacey Ili

Looking forward to the National Provincial Championships this weekend

The National Provincial 7s are this weekend in Rotorua.

Pool Play starts at 9:25 on Saturday with the finals on Sunday from 10:05 at Rotorua International Stadium.

Favourites – Women

It’s hard to say whether defending champions Auckland should be favoured or 2014 champions Manawatu who won the Bay of Plenty Invitational at the weekend.

Auckland have lost a ton of experience with Justine Lavea and Linda Itunu hanging up their boots. And they were without several of their stars on Saturday and so could be bolstered with the addition of Tyla Nathan-Wong, Kayla McAllister and Kiritapu Demant.

Manawatu were also without several players including NZ captain Sarah Goss and the experienced Kristina Sue.

Or perhaps it should be Counties-Manukau who won the Northern Regional Qualifier and are bolstered by having the worlds top try scorer Portia Woodman out wide.

It’s going to be a close, interesting competition.

Waikato have Honey Hireme, Shakira Baker and Chyna Hohepa alongside some exciting young talent and mobile forwards.

Wellington also have an young side growing in confidence who are hitting their straps at the right time.

North Harbour are playing a balanced style with pace out wide and Otago will be in the mix as well.

Favourites – Men

Auckland remain the team to beat. They have power and pace up front in Akira Ione and Matty Matich and more power and pace in the backs with Reiko Ione, Ed Fidow and Gareth William-Spiers.

Add the experience of Rocky Khan in the playmaker role and Auckland are a class outfit.

Taranaki bounced back from a near disaster at the Central Region Qualifier to win the Bay of Plenty Invitational on Saturday and so must be in with a shout.

They have a lot of experience in their backline with Trinity Spooner-Neera, Kylem O’Donnell and Jackson Ormond. They also showed the required level of fitness coming through an extra-time semi-final to go on to win at the Mount.

Reigning champions Waikato have lost too many players (to higher honours and injury) to back up from last year. They went well on Sunday narrowly losing in the semi-final in extra-time. Luke Masirewa showed he is a force at this level and his brothers chimed in nicely. They are also bolstered with the return of Jono Malo.

2014 National Champs Wellington looked ordinary on Saturday. They may have been playing within themselves but they will need 2-3 additions if they are to be competitive this weekend.

They may yet get these however. Lote Raikubula was instrumental in the 2014 victory and could provide the leadership and poise for Wellington again this year.

Northland went well at the Mount, losing the final to Taranaki after being up 17-0 at the break. New star Waisea Lawebuka was in devastating form and in Warren Dunn they have an experienced leader.

Manawatu Women come out on top at the last provincial hit out before the Nationals

Manawatu’s women’s 7s team beat Wellington 19-12 to win the Bay of Plenty Invitational 7s tournament this weekend.

3 of their best players were missing. New Zealand captain Sarah Goss, playmaker Kristina Sue and Janna Vaughan.

Ex-international Hayley Hutana has left the province to pursue career opportunities and Vaine Greig was also absent.

The remaining players stepped up with a consistent performance against some powerful opposition.

Selica Winiata was back after recovering from injury and Crystal Mayes captained the side. They were helped with the inclusion of Michaela Blyde on the wing after Taranaki failed to qualify.

But it was Krysten Duffill who was the standout performer taking out the tournament MVP.

RESULTS
– Manawatu 21-14 Waikato
– Manawatu 26-0 Canterbury
– Manawatu 22-7 North Harbour

Semi-final: Manawatu 21-12 Counties Manukau

Final: Manawatu 19-12 Wellington

It is unclear whether Goss, Sue and Vaughn will be fit for next week’s Nationals but after this performance, Manawatu are probably favourites.

Counties Manukau and Auckland will provide the strongest opposition with the latter likely to be adding more players this week.

What did we learn from the men’s results at the Bay of Plenty Invitational 7s?

Sir Gordon Tietjens Field at Mount Maunganui hosts a provincial 7s tournament just one week out from the Nationals.

In the men’s draw, Auckland will still start as favourites despite losing to North Harbour and only winning the Plate. The Ione brothers are a handful and they have pace on the outsides. The vastly experienced Rocky Khan is also likely to be back next week.

Northland bounced back after losing a number of players since last season and unearthed another potential star.

Waikato also returned strongly with a young side after losing a number of players to higher honours and injury.

Here’s a quick look at the performance of the top mens teams.

Taranaki
Taranaki won the Nationals in 2013 but they were struggling to qualify this season with a poor showing at the Central Region Qualifier in December.

But they stormed back into contention this weekend by beating a strong field at the Mount.

Ex- All Black 7s players Kylem O’Donnell and Trinity Spooner-Neera were in good form and the team’s fitness was excellent.

RESULTS
– Drew with Auckland 21-21
– Beat Canterbury 38-14
– Beat North Harbour 29-12

Semi-Final – Beat Waikato 24-19 (extra-time)

Final – Beat Northland 31-17

Auckland
A draw with Taranaki and a loss to North Harbour left Auckland to battle it out for the Plate but they showed enough to be a serious contender next week at the Nationals.

The Ione brothers combined nicely.

Auckland are a well-balanced side with Matty Matich joining Akira Ione up front and Vara Duisokosoko, Reiko Ione and the pacey Ed Fidow out wide.

With Rocky Khan and Gareth Williams-Spiers likely to come back for the Nationals, Auckland are looking good for back-to-back titles.

Northland
After an average performance at the Northern Region Qualifier, a new-look Taniwha side had a strong showing at the Mount.

Captain Warren Dunn was the only recognizable name but the team came together to beat Wellington (14-10), Manawatu (29-7) and Bay of Plenty (29-14) en route to the final.

Fijian Waisea Lawebuka was the stand out running freely and deserving the tournament MVP award.

Waikato
This is a new-look side due to so many of Waikato’s players being involved in the All Black 7s campaign.

No Dylan Collier, Declan O’Donnell, Isaac TeTamaki, Joe Webber, Regan Ware or Jono Malo meant other players would need to step up.

Luke Masirewa led from the front in a credible semi-final placing after beating Wanganui (21-7), Poverty Bay (42-5) and Bay of Plenty (31-19).

It’s hard to see Waikato going back-to-back at the Nationals without 6 of their top players.

Wellington
A win, a loss and a draw in pool play meant Wellington would be battling for the Plate.

They lost the semi-final to Manawatu 10-14 in a disappointing finish for Scott Waldrom’s men.

Stalwarts Greg Foe and Hayden Schrijvers led a relatively inexperienced team that will need a boost for the Nationals if they are to be competitive.

See the full results at the Bay of Plenty Union site.

4 Things I love about women’s sevens

I spent several hours yesterday at the Bay of Plenty Provincial 7s tournament at Mount Maunganui enjoying some top 7s in the baking Tauranga sun.

16 men’s teams and 8 women’s teams competed in the final rum out before they all meet again next weekend at the Nationals.

Several things came to mind while enjoying women’s matches.

1. Women play smart
Sevens is not about contact. Watching some men’s teams play the game you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise but watch a top level women’s match to see how the game should be played.

Women are more patient. They work the ball from side to side looking for gaps and miss matches. They pull back to assess opportunities when they should rather than just hitting it up when they lack ideas.

And when there’s a mismatch or overlap out wide, the ball gets there. No over zealous forward or ball hogging half messes it up trying to take a gap up the middle.

2. It’s an even competition
The women’s game is developing at a very fast rate in New Zealand. And its happening all around the country from Southland Girls High School’s credible 2nd place finish at the Condor High Schools Nationals to Hamilton Girls back to back wins.

This development is helping to even the playing field.

There have also been some player movements among our top athletes that has helped as well.

Portia Woodman joined Hazel Tubic and Renee Wickliffe at Counties-Manukau this season.

Black Fern Chelsea Alley moved to North Harbour from Waikato where they are playing with more shape and confidence. They also have real pace out wide.

Waikato also remain a force with Honey Hireme and ex-Manawatu Black Fern Shakira Baker running wide with Chyna Hohepa in the midfield. Some of the Hamilton high school players are also coming through.

Wellington are also contenders now, happy to foot it with the best in the country. They young side have size up front and pace in the backs.

Next weekends Nationals are going to be a hard fought affair with some excellent players on show. The women’s draw is worth the price of admission on its own.

3. We get to see some of the best players in the world
The Women’s World Series does not have a fixture early in the new year like the men do and so national coach Sean Horan is more than happy to see his world champion players going up against each other wearing their provincial colours.

This weekend we had Portia Woodman, Honey Hireme, Selica Winiata, Alexis Tapsell, Makayla Blyde, Hazel Tubic and Renee Wickliffe all playing at the Mount.

Black Ferns Chelsea Alley, Shakira Baker and World 15-a-side Player of the Year Kendra Cocksedge were there also.

Kayla McAllister, Sarah Goss and Ruby Tui should be joining them next weekend in Rotorua for the Nationals to make it a star-studded line up.

4. Women bring additional character, flair and colour to the game
World Series top try scorer Portia Woodman went past me (and her opponent) 3 times in as many minutes yesterday at the Bay of Plenty provincial 7s event at Sir Gordon Tietjens field.

It was poetry in motion watching her go to the outside with her long hair trailing in the wind.

Canterbury and NZ player Ruby Tui provided insightful commentary during the Manawatu v Counties-Manukau game yesterday afternoon.

Tui is one of the game’s hard cases so it’s always fun seeing her out and about.

Pools and Draw for the Middlesex Cup this weekend

New Zealand’s National Club 7s title goes on the line this Saturday at Te Ariki Field in Tauranga – home of Cup Holders Rangataua.

Format

  1. Four pools of 3 teams.
  2. Round Robin – each team will play 2 games to determine Top two placings.
  3. Bottom placing in pool straight to semi final of Bowl division. Top two in each pool straight to Cup quarter-finals.
  4. Losing quarter finalists in Cup straight to Plate semi finals.
  5. Finals: Bowl, Plate, Cup.

Pools

Pool A Pool B Pool C Pool D
Rangataua
Kia Toa
Wainuiomata
Mt Maunganui
Ardmore Marist
Awanui
Te Puna
Hutt Old Boys Marist
Manukau Rovers
Hamilton Marist
Ponsonby
Upper Hutt

Draw

Match Time Group Team 1 Team 2
1 10.00 Pool A Rangataua Kia Toa
2 10.20 Pool B Mt Maunganui Ardmore
3 10.40 Pool C Te Puna Hutt Old Boys Marist
4 11.00 Pool D Hamilton Marist Ponsonby
5 11.20 Pool A Wainuiomata Kia Toa
6 11.40 Pool B Awanui Ardmore
7 12.00 Pool C Manukau Rovers Hutt Old Boys Marist
8 12.20 Pool D Upper Hutt Ponsonby
9 12.40 Pool A Rangataua Wainuiomata
10 13.00 Pool B Mt Maunganui Awanui
11 13.20 Pool C Te Puna Manukau Rovers
12 13.40 Pool D Hamilton Marist Upper Hutt
Break 15 min
13 14.10 Bowl Semi Final 3rd B v 3rd C
14 14.30 Bowl Semi Final 3rd A v 3rd D
15 14.50 Cup Quarter Final 1st A v 2nd D
16 15.10 Cup Quarter Final 2nd B v 1st C
17 15.30 Cup Quarter Final 1st B v 2nd C
18 15.50 Cup Quarter Final 2nd A v 1st D
Break 15 min
19 16.20 Plate Semi Final L15 v L16
20 16.40 Plate Semi Final L17 v L18
21 17.00 Cup Semi Final W15 v W16
22 17.20 Cup Semi Final W17 v W18
Buffet 5 min
23 17.45 Bowl Final W13 v W14
24 18.05 Plate Final W19 v W20
25 18.30 Cup Final (10 min each way) W21 v W22

Tim Mikkleson is a HUGE loss to New Zealand

2012-13 World 7s Player of the Year Tim Mikkleson has been ruled out of the Wellington 7s this weekend due to injury.

The Waikato man is an extremely deceptive runner who makes breaks around the middle of the field and has the pace to finish them off.

He is New Zealand’s top try scorer of all time with 155 – 7th All Time and 3rd of all current players in the World Series.

Big shoes to fill

Wellington’s Murphy Taramai has been called in as replacement. Taramai played in Dubai and South Africa after strong performances at provincial level.

He is big and strong and will need to make a solid impact now that one of New Zealand’s key attacking weapons won’t have his boots on.

Coach Sir Gordon Tietjens has gone with young players he believes has x-factor in Waikato’s Dylan Collier and Auckland’s Reiko Ione so Taramai offers another exciting option.

It’s just the defensive duties, the fitness and the decision-making that will need to be on song if New Zealand are to retain their title.