Coast finalists are found
Semifinals are nerve-racking affairs . . . or blowouts.
Uawa, the defending champions of East Coast club rugby, favoured the latter at home on Saturday. They beat Hicks Bay 51-3 in a 1 v 4 semifinal at Tolaga Bay.
Uawa’s victory means they will host the final at 2.30pm this Saturday against Tihirau Victory Club of Cape Runaway, who won their first title in 2017. Coast rugby’s second (TVC) and third-placed (Hikurangi) teams, who previously drew 12-12 and 7-7 in round-robin play, were at last separated. Heroes of two years ago TVC prevailed 12-5 at Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa.
“We’re just soaking the feeling in and enjoying the moment,” said TVC captain Moana Mato.
“We get to live another week and take another step up. We’re keen and hungry to do the job.”
Hikurangi coach Doone Harrison said, “TVC made the most of their opportunities. They had two chances and nailed them.
“It’s been a tough season. Expectations were high because we’ve made the top four for 18 years in a row, but this time we had to work right to the last round-robin game to secure a semi-final spot.
“For me, the highlight was the huge growth and development of our up-and-comers — Putahi Morice (tighthead prop), Maui Baker (prop/lock), Te Maera Warmenhoven (lock), Hone Manuel (right wing) and Aomuri Parata (fullback), to name a few.”
Harrison regards TVC first-five Verdon Bartlett (who moved to fullback in the second half) as having provided his team with excellent guidance throughout a game, in which field position and possession of the ball was evenly shared.
Hikurangi’s young front row dug deep against experienced opposition, Mike Marumaru, Jackson Rueben-Swinton and Rawiri Waititi. Neither side gave an inch easily, lock Hoani Te Moana one of the stiffest for TVC until issued with a yellow card by referee Chris Wanoa in the 28th minute.
Waititi scored the opening try a minute before half-time for 5-0 at the break. TVC centre Tawhao Stewart scored in the 41st minute, with a conversion by right-wing Peti Delamere, for 12-0.
Hikurangi blindside flanker Kyil Beach and TVC MVP, right-wing Telique Simeon, were among the fiercest tacklers — with the visitors scoring in the 70th minute. Hikurangi halfback Neihana Ratahi-Brown dotted down for “The Maunga” (Mountain). The score remained 12-5 to TVC.
Uawa a powerhouse of East Coast rugbyUawa are a powerhouse of East Coast rugby. On Saturday, their hard-shunting forwards and super backs came together in style. They scored seven tries to MVP right-wing Tipene Meihana a hat-trick, and Uawa first-five Chris Richardson also had a magnificent match. He scored a try, kicked five conversions and two penalty goals for an individual tally of 21 points.
Hicks Bay manager Graeme Summersby said, “Uawa are a well-disciplined and well-drilled team. We were aggressive in the first 20 minutes. Our forwards compared well size-wise, but they created space and the speed of their backs won the game for them”.
Conditions were ideal, the ground in perfect condition. The crowd was estimated at 500.
Hicks Bay MVP No.8 Anton King charged back at Uawa from the kick-off, Richardson fielded a high kick from Hicks Bay, Uawa fullback Jordan Birch then made a break and 90 seconds in, Uawa blindside flanker Fale Toleafoa was given a yellow card . . . a Wild West start to the game.
King kicked a penalty goal from directly in front of the posts at the eight minute-mark to open the scoring.
Richardson’s try, the first, came 17 minutes in when Birch fielded a bouncing ball on his own 22, stepped between would-be tacklers but slipped forward. In the act, he hooked a phenomenal pass to halfback Sam Parkes on his left, who made it to the goal-line before being brought down by Hicks Bay co-captain fullback Sean Murtagh. Richardson took a flat pass from the ruck and dived to score in the corner. He converted his own try for 7-3. Misfortune struck the visitors when Murtagh chip-kicked, Meihana caught the ball and scored under the bar. Richardson converted, for 14-3.
Uawa struck again when outstanding young winger Niao Savage gave his captain lock Scott Lasenby the last pass to score. With Richardson’s conversion, the home team led 21-0. He kicked a penalty for 24-3 at half-time. He kicked a penalty head-on beneath the bar for 27-3, then Meihana received a pass from centre Jesse Rye on the fly and stepped off the left sideline to score in the corner. In the 59th minute, Meihana scored before Uawa reserve centre Tangaroa Gray powered across the line. No.8 Storm Moran went hard and straight for a try on full-time. In a hilarious finish, the ball fell off the kicking tee as Richardson came in to attempt a conversion. He simply swung through from where the ball lay to pot the goal . . . 51-3.
“Sticking to our game plan for the whole 80 minutes was the big thing, because Hicks Bay had us under real pressure for the first 20. Anton had a blinder, carrying the ball strongly and Keith had a great game too,” said Lasenby.
“I’m proud of the boys and our supporters. It was an awesome game and atmosphere.”
Matt Richards controlled the game excellently and will referee the final, with assistant referees Chris Wanoa and Jim Green.