Fired up Quins fight back
BNZ Harlequins got their Wadsco Marlborough premier club rugby championships campaign back on the rails at Lansdowne Park on Saturday with a nail-biting 27-24 win over Moutere.
The victory not only secured Harlequins top qualifying position but also won them the second round title to go with the round one trophy they already have in the bag.
TVA Awatere grabbed the fourth semifinal position despite losing 13-21 to Biddy Kate's Central in the late game at Lansdowne Park, North South Renwick unable to secure the points they needed to pip Awatere as they went down 3-29 to Crafar Crouch Waitohi at Renwick.
In next Saturday's semifinals at Lansdowne Park, Harlequins take on Awatere and Waitohi play Central.
Harlequins 27 Moutere 24
Only rarely does a top versus bottom-of-the-table match produce the twists, turns and excitement that this one did as the Quins chased second round honours and the Magpies played for pride.
Moutere started strongly and only a desperate tackle by winger George Millar stopped the underdogs scoring in the third minute.
The Magpies continued to apply the heat but the first time Harlequins ventured into enemy territory they made it count, Millar scoring a brilliant solo try down the right wing, pace the key ingredient.
Harlequins extended their lead midway through the half when prop Fetu Ieremia finished off a sustained period of attack, Hayden Cripps converting then adding a penalty shortly afterwards for a 15-0 lead.
Harlequins then began to implode under pressure. Joel Logan was sin-binned late in the first half and Moutere's forwards began to dominate and were rewarded with a try to halfback Ben Smith.
Midfielder Jake Cresswell scored a cracking try early in the second spell for Moutere then in the seventh minute of the half, centre Chris Murphy benefited from an inch-perfect chip ahead by Grant Coles to score and convert to put Moutere ahead 19-15.
Harlequins woes intensified when No 8 Stu Dalzell was sent off by referee Peter Tolan for an alleged punch.
Murphy scored his second try midway through the half but then the Quins fired up. Despite being one man down, the makos men stepped up, a superb solo try to Cripps and another to Tim Perry bagging an important morale-boosting win.
Millar and Cripps were the X-factor players in the Quins back line, fullback Gavin Morrison played soundly and in the forwards, skipper Simon Muir, at flanker, and hooker Hamish Stevenson shone.
For Moutere, Jordan Hart at prop, lock Stu Campbell and flanker Nathan Oakley impressed and in a sharp backline, Murphy and Cresswell had fine games.
Central 21 Awatere 13
Both these teams have an awful lot to work on if they are to mount serious semifinal challenges next week and on the strength of what they served up in this match, seven days is nowhere near long enough to get it right.
While Awatere played with their customary spirit up front, they were ineffective in the backs, lacking pace and penetration with their most talented back Nick Pope hardly getting any attacking opportunities.
Central always looked as though they would win the match but struggled much more than they would have liked.
They lacked organisation in the forwards, despite a brilliant performance from their outstanding flanker Dan Crockett. He certainly lit up a dull, mistake-riddled match, scoring a hat-trick of tries and being far and away the best forward on the park.
Loose-forward Reuben Harvey also had a fine match, strong with ball in hand and leading by example with a big work-load.
Hooker Tupou Sau was another to impress in the Blue's pack and in the backs, veteran centre Onolevu Temo was at his destructive best, busting tackles, making tackles and being a constant thorn in Awatere's side.
Halfback Willie Alaiasa had a top game but as a team Central rarely put it all together.
For Awatere, skipper and prop Kurt Lindsay had another excellent game, fellow prop Paul Hickman gave it everything as did big lock Hamish Blackwell and No 8 Jordan Judge capped off a good effort with an intercept try in the second spell.
However it wasn't a performance either team would be particularly happy with.
Waitohi 29 Renwick 3
Renwick's season ended meekly on their home track but they certainly had their moments against a Waitohi side with just too much fire-power.
In wet conditions, Renwick competed strongly, particularly in the first half when they had plenty of good field position, but due to a combination of errors and strong Waitohi defence, they were unable to break through and score.
Amco Cassidy scored Renwick's only points, landing a penalty but Waitohi went to the break 15-3 up and never looked like being run down.
Classy centre Bryce Heem, Gannon Karena, Eugene Taylor and Dale Rutledge scored tries for the Tohis. Rutledge a had a fine game at halfback and standing out in a typically-robust forward pack were Vernon Fredericks, with his destructive running, Daniel Karena and Keiran Gaudin.
Tohis coach Nathan Peipi was pleased with the result and the fact his side has good momentum heading into the sharp end of the season.
The only down side was a serious leg injury to their talented flanker Joe Va'atuitui, an injury which held the game up for 15 minutes while he was treated and taken to hospital.
For Renwick, Rikki Winitana did a good job keeping his opposite Heem from dominating, halfback Ryan Schollum had a top all-round match and lock James Martin was the pick of the forwards, although he blighted his performance by being yellow carded.
- The Marlborough Express
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