See more final photos here!
Joseph Vueti and Josese Vukataki play rugby like most people dance; a joyful expression of movement and beat.
With their teammates moving equally in harmony, the Fijian pair helped Te Puke to an historic 17-7 win over Tauranga Intermediate in the final of the NZCT AIMS Games boys sevens tournament.
The Suva sensations are in the first intake of Te Puke’s new rugby academy, established to enhance the prospects of local players and also offer opportunities to those from outside the Bay of Plenty town.
It’s fair to say both Vueti and Vukataki have seized those opportunities with both hands.
“It’s been a really good experience and we’ve made lots of friends,” Vukataki said. “The school has looked after us and, even though it’s a bit colder than home, we’ve loved it.”
Both players scored first-half tries in the final, along with Te Hamana Te Aute, as Te Puke went to the break 17-0 ahead. They withstood a valiant Ryan Nicholson-led Tauranga comeback, conceding only one second half try to take the title for the first time.
Yet Te Puke weren’t just a two-trick pony – captain Senio Pulega was outstanding and, with the two Fijians, was named in the tournament team.
Te Puke coach Steve Miln said Vueti and Vukataki had been hugely enjoyable players to coach.
“They’ve brought Fijian style,” the former Maori All Black and Bay of Plenty midfielder said. “They’ve really got us to keep out of contact, although they’re very good in that physical aspect of the game. They’ve taught us about the unexpected, so they’ll offload and they’ll hip hip and move their feet to keep things alive. We just let them play their natural game and build our game around them.”
Royal Oak, meanwhile, continued their impressive dominance of the girls’ sevens, winning their fifth title in the last six years. Only Tauranga (2010) and Wesley (2014) have broken Royal Oak’s AIMS sevens streak, although the Auckland side only entered the competition for the first time in 2011.
Their 10-7 win over Gisborne’s Ilminster Intermediate was built on outstanding play from Javanah Mauga, who scored a try in each half, with Kelsey Teneti scoring a brilliant 60m effort just before halftime, with Kaden Moeke adding the conversion to keep her side in the hunt.
Boys rugby sevens tournament team:
Tony Solomona (Brandon Intermediate), Tomasi Naicegulevu (Hastings Intermediate), Regan Atamu (Pukekohe Intermediate), Issac Tai (Whakatane Intermediate), Joseph Vueti (Te Puke Intermediate), Ryan Nicholson (Tauranga Intermediate), Jackson Meecham (Glen Eden Intermediate), Tama Anderson (Kamo Intermediate), Senio Pulega (Te Puke Intermediate), Miles Tapsell (Rotorua Intermediate), Josese Vukataki (Te Puke Intermediate), Julius Waldron (Rotorua Intermediate).
Girls rugby sevens tournament team:
Elizabeth Tangaroa (Findlayson Park), Lua Semisi (Hastings Intermediate), Vicki Kaloni (Ilminster Intermediate), Harmony Stusky (Royal Oak Intermediate), India McMahon (Tawa Intermediate), Mya Bennett (Mt Maunganui Intermediate), Imij Hawkins (Tauranga Intermediate), Javanah Mauga (Royal Oak Intermediate), Kelsey Teneti (Ilminster Intermediate), Tamara Ruaporo (Tawa Intermediate), Monica Samita (Sylvia Park School), Mele Talanoa (Royal Oak Intermediate)