Zac Guildford, Selica Winiata lead Waikato and Manawatu to national sevens titles

Zac Guildford and Selica Winiata have led their respective provinces to national sevens glory.

Former All Black Guildford captained Waikato to the men's title, beating Tasman 21-17 in the final, while Black Ferns star Winiata sparked Manawatu to a thrilling 17-15 win over Waikato in the women's final. 

In the men's final at the Rotorua International Stadium on Sunday, Tasman scored in the opening minute through captain James Lash.

They held the lead for four minutes before Sevu Reece goose-stepped his way through the Tasman defence with ease to stroll in under the posts. 

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Just before halftime, Waikato's Tyler Campbell won a great breakdown turnover down the right side, before racing away down the wing to dot down in the corner. Isaac Te Tamati nailed the touchline conversion to make the halftime score 14-5.

Tasman hit back within two minutes of the second half as Glen Ballam scored in the right corner. Lash matched Te Tamati's effort with a superb touchline conversion of his own to close the gap to two. 

But Waikato struck back immediately as Jordan Bunce - son of All Blacks legend Frank Bunce - broke down the left wing before putting Saynarvat Srisawat in under the posts. The conversion was made to make the lead nine with four to play.

Tasman had a close try disallowed with 90 seconds to go in the left corner as their attacker was just adjudged to be out of play before touching down. 

Waikato fair blundered their way to the finish line from there, with Te Tamati stepping dead when trying to make a clearing kick. That led to a final Tasman try to Tone Ng Shiu, but it mattered little in the end as they held on for the win.

In the women's final, Rhiarna Ferris opened the scoring for Manawatu when darting over from close range midway through the first half. 

But Manawatu's Krysten Cottrell was sinbinned two minutes later for stopping a promising Waikato attack from an offside position. Stacey Waaka scored immediately from the tap restart as Waikato used their numerical advantage to create an overlap out wide. 

Being down to six players didn't blunt Manawatu's attack though as Ferris setup Janna Vaughn for a try in the left corner with time up in the first half following a big break by Winiata down the right wing. 

Despite Manawatu being back to their full complement to start the second half, Waikato started the stronger and were back within two points when Chyna Hohepa crashed over after a superb offload from Shakira Baker while being tackled by two would-be Manawatu defenders.

Baker earned a turnover for her side immediately after the restart, putting Waikato on the front foot again, which eventually ended in a try to Ariana Bayler. 

The try went unconverted though, meaning it was just a three-point lead with two minutes to play. That gave Winiata a sniff, and she broke downfield, but was somehow caught. The ball was still spun out to the left wing where Lauren Balsillie had too much pace for the Waikato defence, dotting down for the winning try to cue jubilant celebrations.


Women's final 

Manawatu 17 (Rhiarna Ferris, Janna Vaughn, Lauren Balsillie tries; Selica Winiata con) Waikato 15 (Stacey Waaka, Chyna Hohepa, Ariana Bayler tries). HT: 12-5.

Men's final

Waikato 21 (Sevu Reece, Tyler Campbell, Saynarvat Srisawat tries; Jordan Bunce 2, Isaac Te Tamati con) Tasman 17 (James Lash, Glen Ballam, Tone Ng Shiu tries; Lash con). HT: 14-5.

 - Stuff