Randwick champions with extra time win

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2014
Randwick
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ
YOU BEAUTY: Bronson Marino, rear, and Randwick team-mates Pahi Vulu and Axton Daniels celebrate their 22-20 extra-time win over Te Aroha in yesterday’s Wellington club final. 

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"Who who are, who are we? We are the boys from Randwick league."

And the Wellington club rugby league champions, to boot.

In pitch black and bitter cold, the Kingfishers ripped into their repertoire of club songs, following their thrilling 22-20 extra-time win over Te Aroha at Fraser Park last night.

The match ought to have been done and dusted in sunshine. But 20 minutes of extra time, which followed on from the same having to be played to decide the reserve grade grand final, meant a gloomy end to a bruising and even encounter.

Randwick had led the way all season and did the same on grand final day. Te Aroha had their chances, but failed to deliver at critical times.

The most obvious was after the 80-minute hooter, when halfback Tautoko Ratu had a conversion to win the match.

University's Mike Hollis had done just that, against, Randwick in the curtain-raiser. But Ratu's effort dipped under the bar and the Kingfishers could breath again.

"A few of the boys had their heads down but we had to pick ourselves up and start again. Both sides stepped up their D in extra time and it just came down to that one kick," Randwick captain Milo Rimoni said.

And that kick was from Randwick's Bronson Marino. With both sides tiring, particularly Te Aroha who were down to just 15 fit players, you assumed the match would be decided by a try.

Instead it was Marino's penalty, kicked after the hooter had sounded to conclude the first 10-minute period of extra time. Te Aroha wing Fa'amanu Anae nearly stole the title for the Eels, but Randwick hung on to cap off a season in which they were defeated just once.

"We didn't want the year to count for nothing. We'd worked so hard to get to this point so we're so glad we won," said Rimoni.

Which meant agony for Te Aroha. Anae, Denzil Hokianga, John Rea and Mike Nathan were among a host of Eels who didn't deserve to lose. But captain Anthony Utanga ensured that at least they did so with dignity.

"It's heart-wrenching, but I still love the boys. Big credit to them, they dug deep. We had a few injuries, especially with Dan [centre Dan Walker] going down, but we kept digging deep," Utanga said.

"I thought we were on top of them and I thought we were going to be able to handle that extra 20 minutes. We done it earlier [in the playoffs] against Wainui, but we just couldn't finish Randwick off."

Marino was a big reason for that. His last-play options were consistently better than Te Aroha's and forced the Eels to start most sets back near their tryline.

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Physically there was nothing between the teams and both teams' ability to withstand punishment was admirable.

- The Dominion Post

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