Waikohu overcome final cup challenge
The smoke has cleared and having withstood the season’s last challenge v previous holders Uawa 24-15 on Sunday, Waikohu end this rugby year as the 2019 Barry Cup champions of record.
“We started in late January, so this was a good way to finish,” said Waikohu coach Jason Tuapawa.
“Uawa played excellent rugby. They showed heart and losing a man to the bin made them play stronger: their forwards won a scrum-penalty with only seven men on the last play of the first half.”
Uawa captain halfback Sam Parkes played a strong all-round game and spoke of the incredible physicality of Barry Cup rugby. Like his opposite — Waikohu captain hooker Geoff Pari — Parkes also complimented official Isaac Hughes on his ability to explain refereeing decisions and communicate with both teams:
“He should be proud.”
Sunday’s clash on a superb surface at Te Karaka Domain, in ideal conditions, drew the largest crowd of the sub-union series — some 2000 — for the closest of the five challenges.
Waikohu beat the season’s first challengers, Ruatoria, 80-5 on August 4; on consecutive Sundays, they then bested Ngatapa 32-19 and “The Maunga” Hikurangi 88-0 before taking a week’s respite. The holders withstood Matakaoa’s gutsy effort 45-20 in the penultimate battle on September 1 — and in Game 5, they outscored Uawa four tries to two to retain both the 96-year-old Barry Cup and another historic trophy — the Jim Ruru Memorial Cup — which Uawa had held for 21 years.
Waikohu claimed both on September 2 last year with their 33-15 win at Uawa Domain; Uawa had previously ended Matakaoa’s five year-reign 22-20 at Te Araroa on August 30, 2015.
Waikohu have now defeated six challengers, the first of which was Matakaoa (45-7) on September 9, 2018.
“Both teams created an awesome atmosphere and the game lived up to all expectations,” said Pari.
“Uawa are a big team and put us under the pump early on by scoring first — they showed us why they’re the East Coast champions.”
An incredible passage of play led to the game’s opening try in the third minute. Over eight phases and three passing movements which twice featured Uawa right-wing BJ Sidney, and plus-sized rampages by loosehead prop Laman Davies and lock Adaam Ross, Sidney took Ross’ flick-pass on the inside — as well as two would-be tacklers with him — to score 5m to the right of the posts.
Waikohu were awarded first scrum-penalty of the day by referee Isaac Hughes and simply unloaded on Uawa in the next 10 minutes: the visitors’ left-wing Cairo Rule-Reihana stood his ground and meshed bodies with Waikohu right-wing KC Wilson in a writhing tackle in the corner; Uawa fullback Jordan Birch got between ball and pitch to deny his charging opposite, 6’4” Andrew Tauatevalu; and finally the challengers’ rake, Matekairoa McGuire, put himself in harm’s way to stop hulking tighthead prop Jarryd Broughton 8m to the left of the posts.
In the 22nd minute, Waikohu were awarded a penalty, opted for a 5m scrum, and scored through blindside flanker Hayden Rutene, 10m to the right of the posts: 5-all. Rutene is a gutsy player, excellent value in the lineout for Waikohu, deserving of a try.
In the 27th minute class shone through when Waikohu second-five Kelvin Smith made a 25m burst, found left-wing cum centre Ethine Reeves on the fly, he in turn making the perfect last pass to Tauatevalu for the home team’s second try, 10-5 to Waikohu, in the 27th minute.
As time wound down in the first half, Uawa lock Kerehama Blackman, adjudged to be off-side, received a yellow card for picking a loose ball up from that position. Both Blackman and fellow veteran reserve tighthead prop Puri Hauiti were excellent value in Sunday’s multi-faceted game.
The half-time score was 10-5 to Waikohu.
Upon the resumption, Broughton descended on Davies with a huge tackle (a strong candidate for the Barry Cup big hit of the year) and at the 45th minute, first-five Chris Richardson kicked a penalty goal for Uawa, cutting the holders’ lead to two points.
In the 57th minute, Waikohu second-five Tawhao Stewart — a try-scorer and Most Valuable Player for Ngati Porou East Coast the day before — scored for 15-8: Smith converted for 17-8.
Sixty-two minutes into the game, 19m from the Uawa goal-line just to the right of the posts, Reeves put a chip-kick through for Tauatevalu — who scored. With Smith’s conversion, the score was 24-8 . . . but Uawa still had one try left in the tank.
In the 72nd minute, Parkes came off a pass from Richardson to bump Waikohu reserve openside flanker Kimihia Matiaha away and in the 74th minute, reserve left-wing Jay Matenga scored Uawa’s second and last try. Parkes converted Matenga’s try: Waikohu won 24-15.
Pari said: “On behalf of Waikohu, we thank all of the clubs who challenged us this season — we’re so happy to be the guardians of the Barry cup for another year.”