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Late penalty wins it

It could be described as a narrow escape.

Tihirau Victory Club centre Peti Delamere had two chances to win the game against Tokararangi late in the piece; he took the second one, a penalty goal, for 17-15.

Te Araroa Domain was the venue, on Saturday, for one of the most interesting and intriguing games in the competition. Tokararangi, guided by coach Morgan Wirepa Jr and led by a top No.8 in Hone Haerewa, have come together. They are a competitive unit, and well worth their 27-26 first-round victory against Hikurangi.

But 2017 champions TVC drew first blood, big lock Hoani Te Moana scoring 18 minutes into the first half. Delamere converted the try for 7-0.

In the 31st minute, promising young Tokararangi left wing William Martin scored the first of his two tries. First five-eighth Slade Tiopira’s conversion levelled the scores at 7-7.

Big TVC tighthead prop Clendon Wikaire then scored — with a conversion by Delamere — for 14-7, and that was the score at the break.

In the 63rd minute, Martin made it a double — but without a conversion — to close it to 14-12. And it was in the 71st minute that Tiopira gave Tokararangi their first lead in the match, 15-14. The hosts had dug deep and found immense courage and skill.

Yet, in the 78th minute, Peti Delamere — who had played a good all-round game — was given one last opportunity. He kicked the penalty goal for 17-15, and the win.

Martin won Tokararangi’s MVP (most valuable player) award, while openside flanker Donovan Raimona had the same honour for TVC.

Tokararangi captain and No.8 Hone Haerewa said his team came up against a smart, quality side.

“Mistakes have to be at a minimum, or their backline will attack you from anywhere on the pitch,” he said.

“In saying that, it was another fierce game from us and I’m proud of the way our boys played.”

Slade Tiopira. File picture by Doone Harrison