Hikurangi 17 (Kris Palmer try; Palmer 4 pen)
Uawa 15 (Leiman Davies, Hayden Pardoe tries; Te Ahu Baker pen, con).
“Tough wet-weather rugby in a mudbath.”
That’s how Hikurangi lock Te Rangi Matanuku Parata summed it up after leading the defending champions to victory in the 1 v 4 clash at Whakarua Park in Ruatoria.
“Our forwards stood up to be counted,” he said. “We were composed. We’ve got a lot of experience in finals rugby now and I think it showed.”
The men from the maunga (mountain) needed cool heads after forging a 17-3 halftime lead, then weathering an expected comeback from the men from the awa (river).
All of Hikurangi’s points were scored by fullback Kris Palmer in the first 40 — a try and four penalty kicks.
Uawa replied with two second-half tries and it was all on in the last 12 minutes.
Fullback Palmer and Uawa halfback Te Ahu Baker traded penalties before Palmer scored the first try of the game in the 20th minute.
It was a brilliant individual effort.
Playing towards Ngata Memorial College, Palmer fielded an attempted clearance on the grandstand side in Uawa’s half.
He stepped between two defenders, then chipped the ball over a third and scored in the right corner.
Uawa finally opened their try account in the 20th minute of the second half.
Lock Reg Namana won a lineout, Uawa pushed twice down the blindside and loosehead prop Leiman Davies emerged with the riches — a well-deserved try 10m in from the right-hand touch.
Their second five-pointer came eight minutes later. From an attacking scrum 10m to the right of the posts on the 22m line, No.8 Harley Phillips made the initial charge and two quick rucks later, blindside flanker Hayden Pardoe carried two men eight metres to score.
Halfback Baker converted the try to close the gap to two points and the remaining 12 minutes saw both teams wage war between the 22s as Palmer duelled his opposite and Uawa captain BJ Sidney and centre Jordan Patrick with the boot.
“It was a great game but we let them get too far ahead,” said Uawa coach Peter Crawford. “We finished with a wet sail — scored all the points in the second half.”
He hailed the performance of Palmer — “he was the hero today” — and also made special mention of referee Chris Wanoa.
“He did a good job. A lot of the time it’s about position and he was in the right place.”
Wanoa reciprocated the comments.
“I got a warm reception from both teams at the pre-game meeting,” he said.
“Both sides went out there to play positive rugby. We all agreed that we wanted the game to be a spectacle for the public.
“It was whanau on whanau, even if in the second half — with both teams and myself being covered in mud — you almost couldn’t tell friend from foe.”
Defence key for TVC
TVC 25 (Tevita Ahoafi, Hoani Te Moana, Moana Mato tries; Rapata Haerewa 2 con, pen, Ahoafi dg).
Ruatoria City 20 (Neihana Ratahi, Watarawi Ngata, Paddy Allen tries; Corey Walker dg, Nathaniel Fox con)
HT: 19-15 (TVC).
Tihirau Victory Club rose to the occasion in an epic 2 v 3 semifinal against Ruatoria City at Te Kura o Maori o Whangaparaoa.
“It’s only the second time we’ve made the club final in our history,” TVC captain and second five-eighth Moana Mato said of their 25-20 win after leading 19-15 at halftime and weathering an intense City surge in the dying stages.
“We had opportunities to win the game,” said City coach Regan Horsfall. “We crossed the line on three occasions (in the last five minutes) but the benefit of the doubt went to the defending team.”
Mato had predicted it would come down to defence. “Going into the weekend, I told the boys that we had to treat this game like any other, and that defence was the priority.
“Our openside flanker Hoani Te Moana was brilliant. He was our player of the day. His ball-carrying and solid defence was a huge factor.”
Two evenly-matched forward packs fought out a classic set-piece duel in the first half, with TVC’s front-row claiming a tighthead and City pinching two lineouts off the opposition throw.
Halfback Te Vita Ahoafi scored the opening try 10 minutes into the game. After five minutes of pressure on the City line, he stepped through traffic from seven metres out to dot down.
Te Moana and Mato also scored five-pointers in the first half and two of the three tries were converted by first five Rapata Haerewa.
Halfback Neihana Ratahi scored City’s first try in the 20th minute and blindside flanker and player of the day Watarawi Ngata ran 30m down the sideline to score their second.
City’s Corey Walker potted a drop goal and Nathaniel Fox kicked a conversion as TVC went to the break with a four-point lead.
Upon the resumption, the home team played an excellent territorial game, with Haerewa finding open space as TVC upped the effort to pin City down in their own half.
A Haerewa penalty and Ahoafi drop goal extended TVC’s lead but City back rower and captain Paddy Allen set up a grandstand finish when he scored a try in the 70th minute to make it 25-20.
TVC coach Whetu Haerewa said it was “a tit-for-tat, try-for-try” thriller and that Ahoafi’s drop goal gave them a vital buffer at the right time.
He paid tribute to his players — “everybody has contributed to our getting where we are now” — and the opposition. “Both teams came together at the end of the game in support of each other’s performance. We play a similar brand of footy and we have a healthy respect for each other.”
Horsfall said it was “a good clean game” and both teams scored superb tries. His team and supporters also greatly appreciated TVC’s hospitality.
Mato praised the performance of referee Harawira Matahiki.
“He was very consistent, controlled the game well and let it flow.”
Coast final 2017 to be “Hikurangi vs TVC”