Hard to separate - Mistakes prove the difference in ‘arm wrestle’
Some teams reflect their captain’s competitive nature.
Such is the case with Ngatapa under loosehead prop Jason Jones, whose crew lost one of their best players, centre Isaac Thomas, to injury on Saturday.
Thomas scored two tries and was his team’s player of the day last week; Thomas’s midfield partner Peter Livingston scored the win-sealing try for 18-8 against High School Old Boys on fulltime.
The injury to Thomas’s right ankle necessitated his being taken from Oval No.2, with player safety paramount.
With the incident occurring in the 37th minute, referee Les Thomas advised the teams that the stoppage would incorporate halftime. Play resumed 32 minutes later, Ngatapa leading 7-3.
Contract Consultants HSOB captain and No.8 Tamanui Hill was proud of his outfit’s play at set-piece and, in terms of individual performances, noted halfback Scott Tallott’s distribution of the ball and defensive skills.
Jones called Larsawn Ngatapa’s second victory of the season a good gutsy effort, while head coach Steve Hickey commended his side for sticking together and refocusing to come away with a win. It was a credit to them.
HSOB head coach Danny Boyle described the game as an arm wrestle.
“It came down to mistakes,” he said.
“We put pressure on them but then we made uncharacteristic handling errors. At one stage, we were in their 22 for 10 to 12 minutes but they held us out. So we had our chances.”
Ngatapa played into the wind, yet had better field position and the greater share of possession in the first half.
Their flankers, Jock Dodgshun (Ngatapa player of the day) and Lynden Manuel, worked tirelessly in their pursuit of the ball.
For HSOB, lock Fletcher Scammell continued his strong form from Tiny White Opening Day, winning both his own and opposition lineout ball by virtue of great athleticism and anticipation.
In the 14th minute — following a ruck 11 metres into HSOB territory, 15m off the right touch — Ngatapa first five-eighth Tom Mueli’s long kick into the HSOB 22 was chased by fullback Matt Raleigh. On the fly, Raleigh then toed the ball another 15m and beat the cover defence to score the first try of the match. Livingston converted for 7-0 to Ngatapa.
At the 20-minute mark, HSOB first-five Cory Reihana took and missed his first penalty goal attempt but five minutes later landed a penalty to make it 7-3.
Throughout the game, the scrum contest was even and neither pack bowed to the other.
Ngatapa’s lineout is a work in progress — an important one. That said, their ability to work — and scramble — has meant they have conceded only two tries in two weeks.
Referee Thomas stopped the game three minutes before halftime because of the injury to Isaac Thomas. During the break, the concern of the rugby community was written on every face at the Oval.
Upon the resumption, both sides picked up the cudgels. In the 49th minute, HSOB player of the day, fetcher Zane Boyle, won lineout ball 10m out from the left corner in Ngatapa territory. Loosehead prop Russell Burns took the ball from him to score from the drive and give HSOB the lead, 8-7.
In the 51st minute, HSOB prop Myles Muir-Tawa was shown the yellow card by referee Thomas and at the 53-minute mark, an injury to Tallott’s left knee meant left wing Sam Middleton had to switch to halfback in his stead.
Tallott is one of the competition’s best passers and 19-year-old Middleton is a promising, courageous player.
In the 59th minute, Livingston kicked a penalty goal to once more put Ngatapa ahead, 10-8, and in the last quarter of the game the going got tougher for HSOB.
On 65 minutes, they were awarded a penalty, right side of the ground in Ngatapa territory . . . and kicked the ball dead. Shortly thereafter, Ngatapa took a tighthead; with eight minutes to play, Middleton was shown the yellow card; and two minutes after that, Livingston kicked his second penalty for 13-8.
HSOB never stopped trying. Reserve blindside flanker Dave Joll (one of several veterans who suited up for HSOB on Saturday) won a solo race to the ball at the restart, only to be called back, as the ball had not travelled 10m.
In the last act of the game, Ngatapa swung the ball to the left through the ranks — from Jones, to Raleigh, to reserve second-five Nashwen Mouton, who popped a great pass to Livingston, who had switched to centre in place of Isaac Thomas.
Livingston ran 25m to score in the corner for 18-8, the 10-point gap denying HSOB a bonus point.