Waikohu out in front
Shortened season or not, white-hot form or not, champions aren't crowned in Week 4.
Unbeaten Waikohu beat fifth-placed High School Old Boys 24-18 at Te Karaka Domain in Civil Project Solutions premier rugby on Saturday. And it was no stroll to victory.
At halftime, the score was 10-all and in the 49th minute, an injury-struck HSOB side — with only two reserve players — even took a 13-10 lead on fullback Baxter Mackay's second penalty goal.
To top it off, after Waikohu had secured a bonus point in the 78th minute by scoring a fourth try, and had it converted by first five-eighth Kelvin Smith to put them 24-13 up, HSOB scored in the 80th minute to secure a bonus point for a loss within seven points of the opposition.
The HSOB loosehead prop-cum-hooker Russell Burns — the man of the hour, in his 100th game for HSOB since 2010 — then attempted to convert the try from the left touch, on the 22, unsuccessfully . . . despite his teammates and all sections of the crowd roaring their approval. Even the Waikohu side, on the goal-line, cheered him on.
GT Shearing Waikohu (20 competition points) lead the pack, followed by East Coast Farm Vets YMP (15pts), Larsawn Ngatapa (14pts), Kevin Hollis Glass Pirates (6pts), Contract Consultants HSOB (5pts) and Enterprise Cars OBM (2pts).
The Waikohu player-coach, halfback Ra Broughton, knows how deep HSOB dug — and for whom.
“They turned up for ‘Rusty' (Burns) and for each other,” he said.
“They were aggressive around the fringes, good at the lineout; it was a test of our composure.
“Our No.8 Tristan Morten was awesome — he won the McDonald's Gisborne Player of the Match award — and our captain, hooker Geoff Pari, was the winner of our team player of the day for his great on-field leadership in keeping the boys focused and calm.”
Pari said the result could have gone either way.
“HSOB took it to us,” he said.
“But we were honoured to be a part of Russell's 100th game for them. They tested us in a few areas, which is a good thing. We'll work on those at training.”
HSOB No.8 and captain Tamanui Hill knew that every one of his men in blue and white had given 100 percent.
“I couldn't be more proud of my team. It was a really good game and a hard-fought win to Waikohu. That bonus point was the icing on the cake for us.”
On a sunny, brisk day, before a crowd of 800, the hosts opened the scoring after three minutes. From a lineout on the HSOB 22, right side of the ground, Pari found Jarryd Broughton at the tail, and he popped a pass up to No.8 Tristan Morten, who ran hard across the face of the posts before being brought down two metres from the goal-line, 15m off the left touch. Remarkably, Broughton then beat all other players to the breakdown and surged a bodylength to score.
In the seventh minute, Mackay landed his first penalty goal from 10m back, in front of the posts to close it to 5-3.
Broughton was shown a yellow card in the eighth minute.
In the 24th minute, following a scrum set five metres out from the HSOB line, 15m off the right touch, Morten scored the first of his two tries to make it 10-3.
In the 30th minute, having been awarded a penalty by referee Mark Greene, HSOB opted for the tap-kick. Hill subsequently went over for a try 10m in from the right touch, and it was converted by Mackay for 10-all.
Morten ran harder and made more ground than anyone else in either side.
HSOB had the better of the penalty count at the break, 8-4, and in the final analysis, 14-11; Waikohu led the scrum-count 4-2 at the break and 7-6 by game's end; and largely through the superb work of Hill, lock Fletcher Scammell and openside flanker Zane Boyle, the visitors won the lineout count 4-3 in the first half and 8-7 by the end.
Only Scammell won a completed line-out (one not pulled up by the referee for a crooked throw, knock-on or other infringement) against the throw, in the first half.
Both sides went through three periods during which they were penalised repeatedly, “back chat” costing a team an additional 10m on three separate occasions. Assistant referee No.1, Heartland Rugby official Damien Macpherson, was impressed by Green's handling of the players.
“He was consistent,” Macpherson said.
“He set his standard for good discipline early on and if either side argued, they went back another 10.”
Eight minutes after the resumption, Waikohu blindside flanker Ngahiwi Manuel was shown a yellow card.
Mackay's penalty goal a minute later gave HSOB their first and only lead in the game.
In the 54th minute, Waikohu were awarded a penalty 15m out from the HSOB goal-line, in front of the posts. In a stroke of genius, Morten tapped and ran to score for 15-13. Smith's conversion made the score 17-13 to Waikohu.
In the 60th minute, Muir-Tawa — himself carrying an injury — took the field for rake Matekairoa McGuire. Burns and his fellow forwards' legs pumped on every carry. The toughness and timing in the tackle of Waikohu centre Tane McGuire, among others, was their chief obstacle.
Even after reserve openside flanker Kupu Lloyd scored the bonus-point try for Waikohu in the 78th minute — but before reserve tighthead prop Miles Muir-Tawa did the same for HSOB two minutes later — HSOB left wing TK Reihana showed lightning reflexes to hold on to a chip-kick by his opposite, Ethine Reeves, on the touchline. That and the prospect of the youngster scoring as a follow-up drew the crowd to their feet.
HSOB head coach Danny Boyle praised referee Greene for the clarity of his instructions and contribution to the day.
“The game was played in a really good spirit, from the honour guard Waikohu gave Rusty before kick-off, to the respect both teams had for each other during the game and after it was all over,” Boyle said.
“We took big strides on Saturday. Rusty asked for a performance, the boys responded, and that's now our benchmark.”