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Extreme heat, followed by an electrical storm may of kept some of the crowd away from today?s World Sevens Qualifiers, but it certainly didn?t effect the high standard of play, as 12 teams tested out the new rules which will take effect in the main tournament this weekend, whilst also trying to guarantee their own position in the season kick off.
In a nice mix of developing nations and traditional clubs, the second qualification tournament would have to be deemed a success, and whilst many of us would of liked to have seen another international side qualify for the main tournament, the hard work, persistence and professionalism showed by NSW Country and the NASCA Aboriginals side showed that they deserved the positions just as much as anyone else.
The tournament kicked off in perfect fashion with a hard fought battle between two teams which have very long historical roots in the game of Rugby League, that being the New Zealand Maori and the Newtown Jets.
The Maori, who were runners up in the 2003 tournament were expected to make the final again in 2004, however seemed to loose some of their flare in the attack when it came to taking on the Sydney Bulls (Jim Beam representative side) falling to a surprise 21 ? 18 defeat.
NASCA Aboriginals, faced an early dilemma as well when the American Samoa played above what many expected and pushed the favourites all the way to the final seconds when a break away try secured their progression into the semi-finals.
Cook Islands were unlucky not to come away with the victory against West in their first match of the tournament, and seemed to unleash their frustration on the Japanese winning 47 ? 6. Japan, who in both their matches conceded over 40 points did perform a lot better than the scores indicate, however showed the signs of a team that had not played enough football together. Their attack was quite good, and if they were playing 6 tackle football, would of scored a lot more points, however their defence left a lot to be desired.
Italy were another team which showed lots of brilliance, but unfortunately seemed to lack enough cohesion to put off the Tigers and NSW Country, despite the support of the majority of the around 4,000 strong crowd.
The end results of the tournament were possibly no surprise to many, with the wealth of talent both Country and NASCA Aboriginals had to draw upon, but both will have to pull out something special if they wish to progress past the group matches in the main tournament, with both teams being grouped with competition favourites New Zealand Warriors and Parramatta Eels.
NASCA Aboriginals will play in Pool E, whilst NSW Country play in Pool A.
The full results of the tournament were: GROUP A: New Zealand Maori 22 defeated Newtown Jets 19 HT: Maori 18 ? 7
Sydney Bulls (Jim Beam Cup side) 21 defeated New Zealand Maori 18 HT: Bulls 11 ? 7
Newtown Jets 10 defeated Sydney Bulls 0 HT: Newtown 4 ? 0
GROUP C: Western Suburbs Magpies 15 defeated Cook Islands 14 HT: Wests 4 ? 0
Western Suburbs Magpies 56 defeated Japan 4 HT: Wests 31 ? 0
GROUP D: NASCA Aboriginals 22 defeated North Sydney Bears 11 HT: NASCA 10 ? 0
NASCA Aboriginals 18 defeated American Samoa 14 HT: NASCA 14 ? 10
NASCA Aboriginals 24 defeated Western Suburbs Magpies 4 HT: NASCA 12 ? 4
FINAL: NSW Country 17 defeated NASCA Aboriginals 13