AT an extremely hot Cornwall Park in Auckland today, both U16's and U18's Auckland Crowns teams were victorious over their Wellington counterparts in the first round of the Lion Foundation National Junior Competition.
The U16's Foundation Cup was a very close encounter with Auckland holding a two point lead at half-time.
Both side's big props were continually making big barging runs up the middle and setting a great platform for the nippy outside backs. Both teams were defensively very strong and the scoreboard showed 6/4 at the break.
The second half saw the Auckland side begin to dominate and tries to Loose Forward, Pete Lavea, and rampaging Prop, Leo Faafaeete sealed the victory for the home side. The Wellington team scored a late consolation and the game was over at 18 points to 10.
The U18's game was a replay of last year's Kiwi Cup Grand Final. The Wellington side had been victorious in that game but the tables were turned today.
FOR the second year in a row, the Hibiscus Coast Raiders have taken out the Scottwood Trust NZ Rugby League National 7's Cup.
NEW Zealand League 7's selectors, Graeme Norton, Duane Mann and John Ackland will really have their work cut out for them following day one of the Scottwood National 7's Tournament held at North Harbour Stadium today. The talent and skills on display would make the task difficult for the most experienced selectors, something these guys are. Tomorrow afternoon they will name the NZ Residents squad to play in the St Mary's Invitation 7's in Sydney on February 12 & 13.
The abating of the heat and humidity that has been Auckland recently, meant that the teams were competing in almost perfect playing conditions. Unfortunately the morning rain obviously scared a lot of fans away, as day one of the tournament was fairly poorly attended. If I suggest there was 1100 folks there at it's peak, I would probably be being very generous. The hardy punters who attended, however, were treated to a fete of League 7's. Just how good is it to witness teams from Hawkes Bay, Otago, Taranaki, Gisbourne/Tairawhiti, the West Coast and provincial Canterbury competing on a league field in Auckland. How good is it....it's damn good. It's damn good and even better that every team is competitive and given the right nuturing you would have to think that a lot of these teams, in a fairly short time frame, could be competing at a national level in the 13 man game.
With 20 teams competing in five pools you would reasonably expect that there may be a little biffo along the way. No, every game played was played in excellent spirit and I can count the pentalties awarded for foul play on one hand. A pretty good result for thirty games. The day produced no major upsets, although the provincial Canterbury side (as opposed to the Canterbury Bulls) came within a whisker of upsetting the mighty Mt Albert Lions. The Cantabs lead the entire game with Mt Albert grabbing the lead and the win right on the hooter. In the the first half of the Gisbourne/Tairawhiti versus Hibiscus Coast Raiders, the team from Poverty Bay got out to a very lead. Inuargural Scottwood Cup winners, Hibiscus Coast Raiders, had to pull everything out of their arsenal to get the game back on track and run out winners. Just on the Raiders it was interesting to note the return of centre, Shaun Ata, after a stint with the Penrith Panthers club.
So, who were the standouts. Time and space does not permit because there were more than a few. Some players though, do deserve special mention. Daniel Floyd from the Hibiscus Coast Raiders. Josh Davis and Wesley Henry from Wellington.
Wesley Henry had an absolutely awesome day. It takes a bit to impress this old writer but I was impressed - this bloke is so strong. For the Otago side, Robbie Rameka was head and shoulders. Gisbourne/Tairawhiti produced an amazing number 7 by the name of Storm Kiddie. This young bloke is slightly built but his enthusiasm and skills are a delight to watch. For the Waicoa Bay team, Heyden Kerena was the absolute goods. Gee, is this guy a future Kiwi half or not. Canterbury Bulls regular second rower, Chris Newton, is a guy who reminds me so much of Nathan Hindmarsh - not in size, but the body shape is all wrong, the loping gait seems more suited to a trotter, the centre of gravity is all up the creek but can this guy play. He's an absolute try scoring machine. Tangi Ropati for the Marist Richmond franchise was extremely classy and I'll be very surprised if he doesn't pay a visit to St Mary's shortly. There are so many more and I wouldn't be a selector for quids.
Can't wait for tomorrow. More fantastic 7's footy. Finals time in Bowl, Plate and Cup......and then the squad announcement.
CLOSE to 29,000 league fans were greeted with some razzle dazzle football yet again with the Broncos showing the NZ Warriors that visitors can be beaten at Suncorp, winning 28-20 in hot, muggy conditions.