Waiapu fought to the last in entertaining final
Tihirau Victory Club are champions in 2022.
Cape Runaway’s cadre of heroes beat Pango Productions Waiapu 39-17 to claim their second Enterprise Cars Ngati Porou East Coast club rugby title, on this occasion in perfect conditions at Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa.
Haimona Waititi — whose fellow first-year TVC co-coach, centre Tutere Waenga, scored the home team’s opening try in the 10th minute — said: “We’re incredibly happy with the result and the effort put in by our men on the field. The community here also made an amazing effort to host our Waiapu guests, who were themselves a class act.”
These TVC players, with eight consecutive wins, are the first Coast outfit to complete a perfect season since Tokararangi won seven from seven in 2020.
Where 100 fans were on hand for Tokararangi’s 13-12 win against TVC at Te Araroa Domain two years ago, some 300 attended this year’s showpiece, and loved every minute of it, according to NPEC chairman Val Morrison.
“TVC stamped the ‘Victory’ in TVC with a classy win against a never-say-die Waiapu,” Morrison said.
“The Waiapu men and Hikurangi women — although they lost on the day — certainly showed that they were worthy finalists, and got nothing but praise from the big crowd present. The men’s final was dominated by TVC and this dominance was reflected in the final score.
“It was a great day of finals rugby.”
Waiapu captain and scrum-anchor Perrin Manuel won the toss and chose an end. TVC skipper and No.8 Hoani Te Moana chose to receive the ball, his teammate and loosehead prop Rika Mato being the first man to get a touch in general play.
TVC opened the scoring 10 minutes in, Waiapu having been reduced to 14 men after the referee, Bay of Plenty’s Amon Rimene, showed blindside flanker Richard Green the yellow card.
From a five-metre scrum in front of the posts, halfback Bless Perese-Elliott went left and hit Waenga with a cut-out pass for the first try of the final.
With the conversion by TVC MVP (most valuable player) and first five-eighth Ngarangi Haerewa, the hosts led 7-0.
In the 15th minute, TVC packed a scrum 11m off the right touch, 28m from the Waiapu goal-line. Perese-Elliott went left, Haerewa finding fullback Verdon Bartlett with a great cut-out pass; he slipped a beautiful assist to centre Tame Anderson, who scored in the left corner for 12-0.
In the 22nd minute, from 20m out, Waiapu halfback Hamuera Moana-Baker landed a penalty goal to close it to 12-3.
Nine minutes before half time, one of the competition’s most dangerous men, TVC fullback Verdon Bartlett, scored under the bar, having won the race to a loose ball in the Waiapu half. Haerewa converted for 19-0.
In the 40th minute, Haerewa kicked a 17m penalty goal from the middle of the park for 22-3, the half-time score.
A minute after the resumption, TVC tighthead prop Hirini Delamere scored 15m off the left touch at the end of a rip-roaring passage of play in which the home team returned a kick with a 50m run, spread left and then headed back right for the try to strongman Delamere.
Haerewa converted the try by the big No.3 and TVC led 29-3.
In the 47th minute, a great Waiapu five-metre scrum and burst off the back from No.8 Morgan Poi put the orange-and-blacks in a prime attacking position. One shift left, and lock Netani Seruwaqa scored from the pick-and-go. With Moana-Baker’s conversion, the score closed to 29-10.
Second-five Manu Herewini scored in the 54th minute to give TVC a 34-10 advantage and, in the 68th minute, Bartlett (at the 22, going right side) slipped Haerewa another remarkable pass to set up the try 15m in from the right corner. With no conversion, TVC were 39-10 up.
Waiapu first-five Keelan Poi scored his club’s second try in the 38th minute, with the last act of the game being Moana-Baker’s conversion from the left touch for Waiapu 17, TVC 39.
Waiapu coach Jesse Haenga said: “The boys fought hard; now they’re all battered and bruised. I’m very proud of them; the whole club is.”
Both teams entered into the spirit of the occasion with an emphasis on ball-movement rather than defence. That bent is one for coaches, captains and teams to better serve the game.
Many would have loved a two-round season in NPEC club rugby but this was a quality competition. The teams were all well supported, and once more dealt with circumstances beyond their control and the control of the union.
And to top it off, TVC were “perfect”.