While thousands of fans flocked to Hamilton to watch the New Zealand Sevens games last weekend, the University of Waikato Women’s Sevens rugby team were celebrating their own success – they won the University Tertiary and Sport New Zealand (UTSNZ) National Championships.
The annual championships saw Waikato, Canterbury, University, Victoria and AUT come together, all playing for the coveted gold medal and shield.
The University of Waikato played Canterbury in the finals, winning 19-14 at the sold-out FMG stadium. The home team got plenty of encouragement from the crowd – great motivation says Waikato player Leanna Ryan, the tournament’s top scorer.
“It was great to be in front of the home crowd. Last year in the finals we lost to Canterbury, so we were really determined to win this one.”
Leanna credits the win to the team’s coach, Honey Hireme, and the team’s ability to gel as a group.
“We had a great team, a great coach, and we work really well together!” says the Master of Applied Psychology student.
At the end of the tournament, NZ Rugby High Performance Sevens Talent ID selected the top 11 players from the whole tournament to be part of the 2018 tournament team. University of Waikato players made up nearly half the side. They were Rina Paraone, Kanyon Paul, Cheyelle Robins-Reti, Stacey Waaka and Leanna Ryan.
The University of Waikato will participate in nine more UTSNZ sports tournaments this year.