Taranaki break 31-year drought to win National Sevens

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Taranaki thrashed North Harbour 32-17 to win the final of the National Sevens rugby tournament in sun-drenched Queenstown yesterday.

Taranaki – who last won in 1982 – led 17-0 at halftime and outscored North Harbour five tries to three including a hat-trick to Mark Atkins.

The game was marred by a yellow card to North Harbour’s Joshua York for a tip tackle on a Taranaki’s Warwick Lahmert.

North Harbour captain David Raikuna was chosen by veteran national sevens coach Gordon Tietjens as men’s player of the tournament.

Raikuna, who won the Joe Tauiwi memorial trophy for his efforts, also won the award at the 2008 tournament.

North Harbour qualified for the final by beating Bay of Plenty 24-14 in the semi-finals.

Taranaki made the semis by disposing of home team Otago 17-7.

In the quarter-finals earlier yesterday, North Harbour narrowly beat Auckland 21-19, Bay of Plenty beat the other crowd favourites Southland 29-18, Taranaki beat Northland 27-10 and Otago beat Wellington 21-7.

The Shield final was won by Counties Manukau who beat Canterbury 27-12, Hawkes Bay beat Manawatu 40-7 to claim the Bowl Final and Auckland beat Wellington 40-20 to take the Plate final.

In the women’s final, Manawatu beat Waikato 36-17 after leading 24-7 at halftime.

Manawatu’s Selica Winiata was chosen women’s player of the tournament.

The tournament was the 10th in a row to be staged in Queenstown.

The New Zealand Rugby Union last month awarded Rotorua hosting rights in 2014 and 2015.