Battle of undefeated teams lives up to top billing
Kahurangi sits alone at the top of the Stuff Tasman Trophy club rugby competition after Saturday’s seventh round, where it came from behind to snatch a dramatic 35-34 victory over Waimea Old Boys in the battle of the two undefeated teams. Kahurangi also retained the John Goodman Challenge Trophy.
Wanderers' Tyler Power in full flight against Nelson. Credit: Virginia Woolf/Stuff
The men from Riwaka have been front-runners for much of the season but faced the rare challenge of being behind late in Saturday’s game after giving up an early lead. Kahurangi led 12-0 within the first 15 minutes before crucial mistakes let Waimea Old Boys back into the contest and who dominated the second half to close the game right up. The lead then changed three times in the nail-biting final ten minutes.
A late Waimea Old Boys penalty looked to have sealed the contest before Willy Havili replied five minutes from fulltime to put Kahurangi back in front for a final time, delighting coach Brendan Smith.
“We had to dig really deep and show some composure to come away with that result. Waimea Old Boys had all the momentum so for our boys to stay calm and stick to our processes to get the win was very pleasing,” Smith said.
Five-eighth Havili was again one of Kahurangi’s best. His general game management and tactical kicking was vital in the winning effort as he continues to build a strong case for Mako selection. Young winger Isi Saumaki, in just his second start, was also impressive both in attack and defence.
While it was the first time Waimea Old Boys’ coach Scott McKenzie had tasted defeat this season, he was buoyed by the heart his side showed.
“I was really pleased with the way we came back in the second half. We had a few opportunities in the first half which we’ll look at and we gave up an intercept try which could easily have been a try at the other end. But Kahurangi are a class team. They are going really well and don’t have many weaknesses,” McKenzie said.
Mitch Barry was in the middle of everything for Waimea Old Boys while Michael Stringer was pure class, almost single-handedly getting his side back into the game with his line breaking ability in the second half.
Kahurangi take on Marist in another mouth-watering contest this Saturday, while Waimea Old Boys travel to Picton to try and re-join the winners circle against Waitohi.
Elsewhere, Stoke moved back into the top four with a hard fought 29-26 victory over Central at Greenmeadows Park with Levi Carew scoring in the final moments to snatch victory.
After spending much of the early part of the season away from home, Stoke started a four-game stretch of home games on Saturday which also marked the return of a number of key players, including Tevita Koloamatangi who has returned from playing in Japan and pulled on the Stoke colours for the first time in 10 years.
Coach Brad Allam was happy to take the win but felt his side was still searching for its best form.
“We’re still building. We knew it was going to be a big game and Central is a good side but we certainly left a few tries out there on Saturday. We were accurate in periods but weren’t as consistent throughout the game as we would have liked,” Allam said.
Openside flanker Fergus Hughes was everywhere as usual while Amanaki and Asher Veamatahau were again threats whenever they touched the ball and Saul Lewis was electric from fullback. The victory was made all the more special for Stoke with Steve Kerr bringing up a century of games for the club.
“We have been on the wrong end of a couple of close ones this year and Steve really epitomises the grit we want to show as a club. So to see our boys dig deep and stay in the fight until the final whistle with the grit that Steve shows every week was fitting on his big day,” Allam said.
Wanderers also recorded a statement win on Saturday, dispatching Nelson 46-14 to stay in the hunt for a top four spot in a result that coach Glen Grant said was a real confidence booster.
“In the past few games we’ve felt a bit one-dimensional and conservative so we approached Saturday as do-or-die when it comes to the top four and looked to play more relaxed and use the wide channels more. It seemed to work, the gaps opened up and we took our opportunities,” Grant said.
Manu Moli, who switched from the front row to Number Eight, enjoyed the extra space and was all over the park scoring two tries while his fellow loose forwards Dan McLaughlan and Chris Halaufia led a dominant Wanderers forward effort. Fletcher Matthews was rock solid at fullback while William Hamilton again showed his versatility, this time in the number 12 jersey.
“We are relying on a few other teams to help us out if we are to make the top four but I’m hoping this is something of a turning point for us. We’ve certainly got the guys to do it, we just need the belief. Saturday should go a long way to getting that but we know we’ve got a lot of work to do yet,” Grant said.
Renwick bounced back strongly on Saturday to dispatch Waitohi by 27-5 and record its second win of the season. After being well beaten the week before by Central, coach Tii Paulo said his side returned to basics this week.
Viliami Napa'a in action for Waitohi against Renwick. Credit: Brya Ingram/Stuff
“We talked about carrying hard, making our tackles and just to get back to good grassroots footy without over complicating things. Saturday was about showing some ticker and mongrel. We’ve let teams back into games this season so to keep it on for the full 80 minutes was great,” Paulo said.
Kyle Marfell had a strong game in midfield while lock and lineout caller Jayden Holdaway was a standout, as was Michael Dillon who led Renwick well from the back.
STUFF TASMAN TROPHY POINTS TABLE (After 7 weeks): Kahurangi 30, Waimea Old Boys 26, Marist 22, Stoke 18, Central 16, Wanderers 15, Renwick 11, Nelson 7, Waitohi 7, Awatere/Moutere 5.
Golden Bay Fruit Senior Women
In the Golden Bay Fruit Women’s competition, Waimea Old Boys Women broke the deadlock at the top of the points table with a 34-17 win over Moutere. Heading into the game, the two teams shared a four win, one loss record from the opening five weeks, with the two sides fighting out a one point thriller in the first round. Waimea Old Boys squared the head-to-head ledger between the two sides on Saturday, stretching the margin out in the second half.
“After a week off last weekend (due to Wanderers defaulting) it was a big game for us. In the end, our fitness told and things started clicking nicely,” coach Tom Williams said.
Jess Harvie was again a standout while Waimea’s young wingers both impressed. Megan Hemms scored a try on debut and Vivien Prueter continues to grow in confidence every week. As does prop Tita Lupeitu’u who turned in an eighty minute effort as she continues her comeback from injury.
Riwaka proved too strong for Wanderers, winning 66-29 in the other game played on Saturday.
GOLDEN BAY FRUIT TASMAN TROPHY – WOMEN (After 6 weeks): Waimea Old Boys Women 10, Moutere 8, Riwaka 6, Wanderers 0.
In Car Company Nelson Bays Division 2 games played on Saturday, Collingwood, Wanderers, Waimea Old Boys Colts, Takaka and Stoke all claimed victories, while in the Motorworld Marlborough comp, MBC Old Boys and Moutere earned wins while Waitohi and Renwick finished locked together, recording a 24-all draw.
THE CAR COMPANY DIVISION 2 – NELSON BAYS (After 6 weeks): Collingwood 30, Marist 21, Tapawera 18, Waimea Old Boys Colts 18, Stoke 17, Wanderers 17, Waimea Old Boys 16, Huia 10, Takaka 9, Riwaka 6, Nelson 0.
MOTORWORLD DIVISION 2 – MARLBOROUGH (After 6 weeks): Central 23, MBC Old Boys 19, Moutere 16, Awatere 10, Waitohi 9, Renwick 6, Pelorus 5.