Thrilling win, but stuck in sixth
The Feilding Old Boys-Oroua Stags might have knocked over another of the big guns on Saturday, but still couldn't clamber out of sixth place.
In a thriller, the Stags, playing their trademark offload game, came steaming back from 32-20 adrift to pip Kia Toa with two minutes left to play.
Kias might have lost their last four games but they are still in touch in fifth.
They must have been depressed after losing to College Old Boys in the final second the previous week – and with two minutes left when Paora Rakatau banged over the winning penalty on Saturday at Kias' former fortress of Bill Brown Park.
FOB-Oroua have won their last three and even in losing 40-36 to Varsity, they scored six tries to four.
Their ability to score tries from their wide-ranging game is a threat to every team through the hands of men like Rakatau, Lewis Marshall and Sam Aupouri.
They refused to surrender on Saturday, despite losing wing Gareth Watts to a head injury and with fullback Maia Tamati carried off.
Their power props originally out of Feilding High School, Lucas Puts and Gene Ropoama, were potent when besieging the Kias line.
Kias simply have to put teams out of reach, cure crucial handling errors and take the referee out of the equation. However, a Ropoama high tackle at the death went unpunished.
Kia Toa led 13-0, 18-8, 23-13 and 32-30. Each time the hungry Stags belted back, scoring 13 straight points in the final series of counter-attacks.
Kias were without both locks, Fraser Stone and Kingsley Tepppett, injured. But their lineout was much improved with hooker Hone Vella throwing and Highlanders prop Ma'afu Fia shored up the scrum.
Assistant coach and former Turbo Koli Sewabu also galloped around.
And they had enormous 19-year-old Fijian under-18 rugby league representative Billy Raboiliku easily busting FOB-Oroua tackles to set up two great tries to first-five Jade Te Rure against the run of play in the second half.
Both sides butchered tries, one early on when Te Rure didn't pass to an unmarked Simeli Vana and that would have taken the score to 20-0.
At Bill Brown Park: FOB-Oroua 33 (Gene Ropoama, Tim Bailey, Lucas Puts, Sam Aupouri, tries; Paora Rakatau 3 pen, 2 con) Kia Toa 32 (Jade Te Rure 2, Simeli Vana, Ma'afu Fia, tries; Te Rure 2 pen, 3 con) HT 18-9.
College OB 50 Feilding 22
Eight tries to three would satisfy most sides but COB can do better by holding their poise when the subs get rolled on, instead of playing efficiently in patches.
With their structure intact in the first half and the forwards powering all over Yellows in the scrums, halfback Karl Bryson efficiently cleared the ball.
Another Bryson, Tim, had 15 minutes in his debut game while back-up halfback Luke Bryson is out with an injured knee.
COB were lethal in the scoring zone in the first half with captain James Koloto, second-five Matenga Baker and again lock Hamish McKellar starring.
Things then got messy and Feilding scored two tries.
Yellows had three props out injured including their new Tonga under-19 player. So the scrum was demolished, leaving hooker Richard Taylor to shine around the park.
They competed bravely in the loose, Chris Willoughby good at No 7 and halfback Michael Papps on his return from a leg infection.
At Johnston Park: COB 50 (Karl Bryson 2, Willie Paia'aua 2, Eugene Gerrard, James Koloto, Cyrus Baker, Willie Harris, tries; Andrew Durston 5 con) Feilding 22 (Brad Carr, Ryan Whiteman, Glen Hill, tries; Ben Wyness pen, 2 con) HT 26-10.OB Marist 46 Linton Army 20
The OBM hero was speedy lock Dan Law who sprinted 60 metres for one of his team's seven tries.
It didn't amuse Linton coach Lyall Mooney, still frustrated by players not turning up.
Linton were always chasing, would start coming back and lose their way; but basic handling errors are killing the army team.
Their best were again No 8 Grant Robson, lock Frani Woodmass, straight off the plane from Australia, and halfback Ra Broughton.
OBM capitalised on the army errors, their forwards knocked Linton's off the ball at the breakdowns and put Linton's scrum under its weekly pressure.
It wasn't a walkover because Linton came back, but OBM had too much horsepower up front.
They had a patched-up backline, and were disjointed, especially after losing first-five Adrian Curry with a haematoma near halftime. Hooker Sililo Sae and halfback Ben Edwards again had big games.
At FMG Stadium: OB-Marist 46 (Isaac Tupai, Reece Robinson, Dan Law, James Dunlop, Rusiate Vukula, Bryce Grant, Ryan O'Connor tries; Adrian Curry 2 con, pen; Michael Gattsche 2 con) Linton Army 20 (Keilan Poi, Enesi Setu, Dylan Ratana, tries; Poi con, pen) HT 22-10.
Te Kawau 60 Freyberg 7
Even Freys' coach Tasi Tahuna, their sole tryscorer, was impressed by Te Kawau's ability to keep striking from depth. That particularly applied to big young Fijian Vili Dakunimata, who bagged four of the 11 tries, three from long range.
Frankie Bryant set the backline away well and flanker Tepasu Thomas distributed efficiently from centre.
And remember Te Kawau were missing two Fijians as well as George Tilsley, David Te Moana and Mike Gardner.
Their first try came after only two minutes.
Freys defended well in periods and often roared into rucks and had parity with Te Kawau's, especially in the scoreless period after halftime.
But then Te Kawau went wide again and added 33 points in the final 15 minutes.
It was a hot-and-cold game, forwards from both sides down to a walk between breakdowns.
Freys, missing Richard Kupa and Junior Tunufai, were not try-scoring threats but had the benefit of a 3 to 1 penalty count.
At Rongotea: Te Kawau 60 (Vili Dakunimata 4, Atutahi Henare 2, T Thomas, Michael Matenga, Francis Bryant, Lindsay Horrocks, Willie Norman, tries; Norman 4 con, Nathan Preece con) Freyberg 7 (Tasi Tahuna try; Matai Goasa con) HT 27-7.
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