The Central Vipers got just the lift they needed, as they won their first game of the national competition, beating the Northern Swords at Fitzherbert Park yesterday.
After two big losses to Counties-Manukau and Wellington, Central put in an improved performance as they beat Northern 36-8 on a boggy pitch.
Despite the shocking conditions, the Vipers ran in seven tries as they played with more continuity, which was what coach Mike Graham had been after since the start of the competition.
"A bit of soul searching this week from the boys," he said. "Look, they played well, not just with the win but I'm happy with the discipline. We didn't do a lot of those silly things that have been catching us out.
"We needed to improve and we have and we'll need to improve again next week against the South Island. It gives us a leg up to the rest of the competition."
Halo Uluave scored a double while Moeaki Samita, Mike Timoti, Tasitumua Sala, Corey Governor, Wiremu Matakatea all crossed for tries.
The win could be the catalyst the Vipers need for the rest of the campaign, where they have the South Island Scorpions in Wanganui next weekend.
"Winning is winning, isn't it?," Graham said. "Nobody likes to play this game to lose. We talk about having a winning edge and unless you're winning, it's hard to get that edge."
Graham said they would be able to take a lot out of the match even though it wasn't pretty and now knew how to win.
Second rowers Timoti and Sala, a former No 8 for Feilding Yellows, were the best for Central, both breaking the line a number of times and putting in a lot of work on defence.
The puddles on the field and muddy surface made it hard for either of the teams to show any real skill but when Northern did have the ball they didn't hang onto it very well and rarely threatened the Vipers' line.
Graham had been after a big improvement in all areas following the two losses, so he was pleased that working on basic skills started to show.
"As you can see out there the weather was atrocious, handling was terrible and we made sure that we just caught the ball and didn't do anything special with it. We just completed our sets and we got the rewards in the last 20 minutes."
The Central under-17s beat their Northern counterparts 16-12 and the under-15s lost 16-10.
Central Vipers 38 (Halo Uluave 2, Moeaki Samita, Mike Timoti, Mua Sala, Corey Governor, Wiremu Matakatea tries; Crete Cribb 2 con, Cruz Raynor con). Northern Swords 8 (William Waa 2 tries) HT 20-0.
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