aucklandrugby.co.nz and James Mortimer 16.Dec.2013Getty Images
While the men had a slow start to the day, they saved their best for last with two huge performances in the semi and final. The women were dominant throughout the day, scoring 29 tries across six games and only conceding five.
The Auckland men found themselves in a tough pool alongside Blues neighbours Northland and North Harbour as well as an invitational team – the Waikato Barbarians.
The team recorded an impressive victory over Waikato Barbarians but fell just short of Northland and North Harbour. A superior points difference saw Auckland advance to the semi-finals to face the top qualifier from Pool 1 – Counties Manukau.
“We lost to Northland and North Harbour by five points each and so we talked to the players about how you respond after a loss. In way a coming in after a loss can help because players want to make amends,” said coach Paul Feeney.
Auckland crossed for six tries in their 36-7 semi-final victory, with impressive performances across the park.
Meeting Northland again in the final, Auckland had saved their best for last with a 31-0 victory.
“It was an outstanding effort in the heat after a long day to go through a 20 minute final and not concede any tries. The boys were more urgent, especially in defence,” said Feeney.
In what was a true team effort, Feeney struggled to name individual stars, but did mention debutants Kelly Meafua and Leon Fukofuka who both performed well in the blue and white hoops for the first time.
The women went through the day undefeated, winning their five round robin matches before taking out the final against Waikato.
New Zealand players Linda Itunu and Huriana Manuel were disruptive at the breakdown while Kayla McAlister proved to be incredibly difficult to stop.
Coach Peter Walters commented that the experience those players bring to the game is invaluable but also praised the newer players.
“We’re got four or five girls that are new to the sport and they are getting better and better every game,” said Walters.
“Nationals is our big goal but today was a huge stepping stone for us and we are really happy with where we are at.
Both teams return to training in the build up to nationals in January.
Qualifiers for the Nationals:
Bay of Plenty (as hosts of the National tournament, Bay of Plenty automatically qualify)
Bay of Plenty
Counties Manukau 40 - Thames Valley 0
Bay of Plenty 21 - Waikato 14
Waikato Harlequins 19 - North Harbour 15
Northland 17 - Auckland 12
Counties Manukau 24 - Bay of Plenty 14
Waikato 34 - Thames Valley 5
Northland 19 - North Harbour 12
Auckland 35 - Waikato Harlequins 17
Bay of Plenty 38 - Thames Valley 7
Waikato 26 - Counties Manukau 14
Northland 31 - Waikato Harlequins 19
North Harbour 19 - Auckland 14
Auckland 36 - Counties Manukau 7
Northland 27 - Waikato 17
Waikato Harlequins 19 - Bay of Plenty 12
North Harbour 36 - Thames Valley 12
Bay of Plenty vs Thames Valley - mutual default
Waikato Harlequins 34 - North Harbour 12
Counties Manukau 24 - Waikato 12
Auckland 31 - Northland 0
Auckland 34 - Northland 0
Counties Manukau 19 - North Harbour 10
Waikato 45 - Bay of Plenty 7
Bay of Plenty 24 - North Harbour 7
Waikato 58 - Northland 0
Auckland 26 - Counties Manukau 7
Bay of Plenty 31 - Northland 5
Auckland 32 - North Harbour 0
Waikato 17 - Counties Manukau 12
North Harbour 10 - Northland 10
Counties Manukau 29 - Bay of Plenty 5
Auckland 17 - Waikato 14
Waikato 17 - North Harbour 5
Auckland 32 - Bay of Plenty 12
Counties Manukau 45 - Northland 0
Auckland 26 - Waikato 10