Curtain-raiser excitement rivals that of main game
Good curtain-raisers are better than the main event.
And the under-13s game at Rugby Park on Saturday almost fitted that bill, with the Bulldogs beating the Deadly Pumpers 35-25 before Poverty Bay’s excellent showing against the Hawke’s Bay Saracens.
The Dogs led 20-10 at the break in ideal conditions — on an excellent surface — in a pacy match well officiated by referee Dwayne Russell.
Bulldogs loosehead prop Mahutaiterangi Reedy-Tuhura scored the opening try, centre Zeke Whitley got in for 10-0, then second five-eighth Hema Kerekere-Tangira (try No.3) and Reedy-Tuhura put the Doggies 20-0 ahead before the Deadly Pumpers made their presence felt.
Pumpers halfback Connor Paenga put his team on the board (20-5) and always-dangerous running first-five Jayden de Thier’s try gave the Pumpers another boost at the end of the 30-minute half.
Bulldogs left wing Quinn Lockwood made a great break following the resumption but de Thier scored the first try of the second half to reduce the deficit to five points, the Bulldogs leading 20-15.
Bulldogs No.8 Logan Bruce then scored for 25-15, before hooker Storm de Thier went in for the Deadly Pumpers. The score was then 25-20 to the Dogs.
Bulldogs halfback Jonah Whitley scored on the right side of the ground for 30-20.
Pumpers second-five Jaydyn Tihore-Edwards, a huge contributor to the action, scored to close it to 30-25 to set the cat among the pigeons before Hema Kerekere-Tangira made the play of the game.
Kerekere-Tangira — who started at second-five, moved to right wing, then halfback and finally back to second-five — rolled a magnificent pass to first-five Max Kennedy. He hurtled off the left touch to score under the crossbar.
Kennedy ran 50m to score off that assist. It was his team’s seventh try, the 12th and last try in a clash that ran end to end.
In his capacity as coach and player development manager, Russell said: “The skills on show were outstanding and the values-driven four-day series that preceded the game was about being a better person, then a better player.
“The kids exemplified these values throughout the series and in the game showed poise under pressure.”