EASTLAND Engineering Paikea Whalers head into the Gisborne Cosmopolitan Club rugby league playoffs as favourites after they beat Seeka Falcons 38-22 at Awapuni Sports Stadium on Saturday.
It was a sweet victory for the defending champions, who avenged their 22-20 loss to the Falcons earlier in the season.
The teams went into Saturday’s game with the same number of points on the competition ladder and the result means the Whalers now top the table outright.
They are expected to hold on to that lead through their remaining two games in the round.
As anticipated, Saturday’s game was highly competitive, with the scores locked at 10-10 at halftime. It was a structured first half, with both teams completing their sets and kicking deep. The Whalers changed things up in the second half, bagging five tries to the Falcons’ two.
One of the best tries of the match was scored by Whalers player-coach Chris Brown after halftime.
In a 60-metre run, the Whalers stalwart busted through tackles, stepped and fended off defenders before he dragged a player with him over the line as he touched down for the second of his two tries.
Fullback Maru Leach also dotted down twice for the Whalers.
The Whalers continued to carry the ball through the middle well and ran in another try before No.13 Josh Phillips was sent to the sin-bin.
Being one man down did not seem to stop the Whalers’ run as they managed to score another try and held out the Falcons numerous times with good defence.
Halfback Thomas Brown put the icing on the cake for the Whalers by crossing the line in the last minute of the game.
Kereama Rakuraku and Grant Donaldson rounded out the tryscoring for the Whalers.
Corey Reihana kicked three conversions and Thomas Brown, two.
Falcons tryscorers were Harlem Ratapu, Kody Walker, Haa Honde and Nathan Miller. Marquinn Samuels kicked three conversions.