The fight that defined a final

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 13/08/2012

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Marist St Pat's' name will be etched on to the Jubilee Cup once again and the defining act of this year's premier final will be added to club rugby folklore.

Talismanic prop and captain Kas Lealamanua scored the decisive try as MSP beat Oriental Rongotai 14-8 on a rain-soaked Hutt Recreation Ground yesterday.

But it will be the two yellow cards to Ories hooker Motu Matu'u and Steve Fa'atau  in the 62nd minute that is debated for years to come.

With MSP up 6-3 and the match in the balance Ories sensationally lost their entire front row when a fight broke out near halfway.

When the dust settled, dazed captain and prop Donal McNamara limped off with a split lip, while Matu'u and Fa'atau headed to the sinbin.

With the scrums depowered and with a two-man advantage, MSP pounced, Lealamanua scored and, despite a late try to Matt Proctor, the trophy was heading back to Hataitai for the first time since 2009.

Nobody was saying exactly what happened, but Ories clearly felt they had paid a harsh price for retaliating rather than instigating the fight.

"What happens out there stays out there, but it was disappointing," McNamara said. "It was an imaginary guy, an invisible guy who split my lip open. I'm in the scrum with my two hands bound, so you can make what you like.

"We'll win proudly and we'll lose proudly . . . end of the day congrats to Marist, next year's another year."

Ories coach Phil Proctor said it was a pity the yellow cards had had such a big influence on a match that could have gone either way.

He believed the officials could have taken a more balanced view of what had happened.

"It started from a bit of an altercation at the scrum. Donal got pasted. His lips split from here to there and a couple of our guys retaliated.

"But three guys from one team get taken out of play and there's no consequence for the other team?

"It sort of sends a bad message. It's like get in first, go in guns ablazing and then just cover up. It's not a good way for the game to end because it was a tight-fought battle all the way through."

MSP coach Clayton McMillan said experience and cool heads had been the key for his side.

"Sometimes you don't want to win under those circumstances, but you also need your ounce of luck every now and then and I guess today was our lucky day . . . it goes in swings and roundabouts," he said.

"We played the territory pretty well, our set-piece was strong and right at the death when you needed calm heads and experience we managed to grind it out."

In fact, the set-piece was key for MSP who disrupted Ories' lineout in the first half and had an advantage through Jeffery Toomaga-Allen at scrum time.

Hooker Liu Taituave was perhaps the pick of the pack, while first five-eighth Fa'atonu Fili played territory well.

It was hard not to to feel for Ories who played with enterprise and showed courage to hang in to the end.

Openside flanker Ardie Savea was immense with his strength and speed, Paulo Aukuso brilliant with ball in hand and replacement Ambrose Curtis and Proctor both skilful out wide.

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However, they were guilty at times of playing behind the advantage line in the backs and halfback Sean Hay missed three of four shots at goal as the match slipped out of reach.

Meanwhile, St Pat's Silverstream recorded a shock 6-3 victory over Wellington College yesterday in the final of the Wellington premier one schools competition.

It was the second successive year an unbeaten team had fallen at the final hurdle, and a reversal of the 2011 final when Wellington College upset a Silverstream side which had won every leadup game in the local competition.

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- The Dominion Post

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