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.
THE Fiji Bati A have annouced the squad to compete at the 2005 VB St.Mary's 7's which will take place on February the 12th.
THE season Kicks off on Saturday 12th February at 7pm when the Mighty Wynnum Seagulls take on the Manly Sea Eagles in a trial much which should provide a great night of football as the new look Wynnum Seagulls take to the field for 2005.
ANOTHER minnow applies to affiliate with PNGRFL
BRITISH champions Leeds Rhinos have survived a spirited comeback from NRL premiers the Canterbury Bulldogs to win the World Club Challenge by 39-32 today.
SONNY Bill Williams has declared he would like to remain at Canterbury but would not rule out moving to a rival NRL club when his contract with the Bulldogs is up at the end of this season.
WESTS Tigers defeated Italy 78-4 on Saturday night in their opening trial match of 2005. Italy scored first from dummy half a metre out before 78 unanswered points were racked up. In the curtain raiser, Wests Tigers 2 defeated NSW Southern Division 94-6.
PARRAMATTA Eels halfback PJ Marsh made a successful comeback from a career threatening neck injury, but couldnt prevent the Eels from being surprisingly beaten by a Cronulla side missing most of its regular first-graders in a trial game at Lismore last night.
AFTER missing the NRL top 8 for the past two seasons, Cronulla skipper Brett Kimmorley says it's time for the club to deliver the goods.
SCOTLAND 26 ENGLAND 28
HULL 28-24 Wakefield
Hull: (8) 28
Tries: Yeaman 2, Raynor 2, King, Best
Goals: Cooke 2
Wakefield: (0) 24
Tries: Jeffries, Korkidas, Wainwright, Ryder
Goals: March 4
Third-placed Hull had a real fight on their hands to see off in-form Wakefield as they chalked up their third straight win.
With Hull looked in total control when Colin Best scored their fourth try with half an hour to go to give them an 18-point lead.
THE often controversial career of Manly winger John Hopoate is again in the balance after he was today cited by the National Rugby League for a number of incidents stemming out of the Sea Eagles? big loss to Parramatta yesterday.
AFTER 14 rounds of football, the Leagueunlimited.com awards still have Sharks? half back Brett Kimmorley at the top of the leader board on 17 points. Nathan Hindmarsh (16 points) and Matt Orford (15 points) are not far behind.
The shakers and movers this week include Dragons half back Mathew Head who scored three points on Friday night, moving up to 11 points and within sight of the front runners. Wests Tigers? fullback Brett Hodgson also scored well and moves up to 10 points.
IT was always going to be a tough ask. Without Noddy or Stevo, or Peach or Vagana, the Sharks were always going to struggle for leadership against the Raiders.