Promising start for tournament

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North Otago Referees Sevens organiser James Symes was a tired but happy man after the inaugural tournament at the weekend.

The Redpaths-sponsored tournament, featuring eight men’s teams and four women’s teams, made a promising beginning with a day of solid sevens action at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday.

For Symes, there was satisfaction in reviewing the first edition of the tournament, which he hopes will become a significant and regular part of the sevens calendar.

“I’m really happy,” he told the Oamaru Mail.

“Everything on the actual rugby side of the tournament couldn’t have gone better.

“We were obviously a little bit nervous in the morning with the weather. But once the cloud lifted, the day just got better and better.”

Symes said the tournament attracted strong corporate support, and a walk-up crowd of 300-400.

Feedback from the teams, who had a rare chance to prepare for the South Island tournament in Timaru this weekend, had been uniformly positive.

“They’ve all been in touch already to say they are keen to come back next year, which is really good,” Symes said.

Canterbury and Tasman, who had committed to an Auckland tournament, were missing on Saturday but there were indications they would be keen to play in Oamaru next year.

A quick count revealed the event had reached the referees association’s fundraising target of $5000.

Heartland Championship union Mid Canterbury was the surprise winner of the men’s tournament, beating Sassenachs Blue – one of two Otago teams – 29-26 in the final.

Home side North Otago made the playoff for third and fourth, losing 29-10 to Sassenachs Gold.

Canterbury A won all three of its games to win the women’s competition.

North Otago coach Kilifi Fangupo was pleased with his team’s performance, opening with a loss to Sassenachs Blue before beating Southland and Mid Canterbury club Hampstead.

“I was pretty happy with the way the boys performed. It was our first hit-out on the field,” Fangupo said.

“We had a bit of a slow start but we came back and performed really well in our second and third games.”

Fangupo said North Otago was guided superbly by captain Lemi Masoe.

“Lemi really led from the front. I was really impressed with his performance, on defence and attack.”

Tyron Davies, Inoke Naufahu and Harry Frost showed tidy distribution skills, Maene Mapusaga, Filipo Veamatahau and Matthew Vocea worked hard all day, and Simon Lilicama showed his ability to score tries from out wide.

Fangupo will cut his squad to 12 for the South Island tournament.

Leader of men . . . North Otago captain Lemi Masoe starts a break during the Referees Sevens at Whitestone Contracting Stadium in Oamaru on Saturday. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN
Leader of men . . . North Otago captain Lemi Masoe starts a break during the Referees Sevens at Whitestone Contracting Stadium in Oamaru on Saturday. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN