Upsets in opening round of club rugby

Senior A club rugby at Tikorangi: NPOB's Riki Hoeata tackles Clifton's Zane Neil.

Senior A club rugby at Tikorangi: NPOB's Riki Hoeata tackles Clifton's Zane Neil.

 If competitions need upsets and unpredictability to be successful, then the premier club season could flourish in 2015.

The opening week's play saw defending champions Inglewood put to the sword 47-16 by Tukapa, while Stratford won for the first time since June, 2013 when they snuck past Spotswood United 15-13 and Coastal pipped Southern 30-25.

The JD Hickman feature match of the round ended with New Plymouth Old Boys 33-7 victors over Clifton at Tikorangi where the weather played its part in putting off a large crowd attending the club's 20th anniversary of its amalgamation.

They missed a scrappy affair dominated by mistakes and poor option taking, nothing more than might have been expected first up.

The match was relatively even for the first 30 minutes as a common theme developed.

Old Boys would look better with the ball in hand, as they worked through several phases before they would either lose control or be penalised at the breakdown.

Clifton would then kick it into a strong field position but be let down by their lineout execution.

A Codey Rei penalty was the only scoring in the opening quarter before he added a second for Old Boys on the half hour.

Although Clifton had a rare foray close to the Old Boys line, it was the visitors who cracked the first try through Giovanni Habel-Kueffer.

The best passage of play came just before the break as both sides counter-attacked from deep before a poor base kick from Clifton created space for Logan Rei to score.

At 20-0 Old Boys had the match all but  sewn up with Clifton looking unlikely to bridge the gap the longer the second half went on.

There were a couple of bright moments as Taranaki prop Ryan Cocker barged over after some good tight work by the Clifton forwards, while Old Boys' teenage playmaker Daniel Waite scored a nice individual try after showing the vision to chip and regather before outsprinting the cover defence.

"It was very messy but I guess it's the season opener," Old Boys captain Liam McBride said.

"We wanted to slow the ball down and put into practice what we had done in the pre-season but things were a bit messy and the weather was not exactly kind. But I guess a win is a win and you would always take that against a good Clifton side."

A penalty try proved decisive in Stratford's win, the first time they have opened the season with a victory since they upset Old Boys 23-19 in 2009.

It was awarded after Issac Meo was taken in an illegal tackle as he headed for the try line.

A second try to wing Jason Bolton and a penalty to Nick Childs proved enough points to cause what many pundits would have thought was an upset.

Blindside flanker Kolaia Nalewabau, lock and captain Daniel Bishop and fullback Morehu Connor-Phillips were all praised for their performances from management.

The disappointment in the Spotswood United ranks was evident post-match as they lamented their inability to provide a strong set piece.

There were also plenty of mistakes and a bit too much ill-discipline. The bright points were provided by the performances of openside flanker Toa Halafihi and fullback Brayden Byrne.

Tukapa more than hinted that they could be a force in 2015 after they took Inglewood apart at the TET Stadium.

Three converted tries and two penalties by halftime had the visitors well in control and they simply kept their foot on the throat in the second spell.

There were plenty of highlights for Tukapa, with prop Baxter King barging over for two tries, while rookie wing Eli Kneepkens found the step up from secondary school rugby to the senior ranks rather comfortable as he scored a try as well as landing five conversions and four penalties.

Fullback Jayson Potroz was a threat for Tukapa as he broke the line on numerous occasions.

Inglewood's cause was not helped by the loss of captain Berny Hall early in the match with a knee injury.

Inglewood co-coach Ngatai Walker said Tukapa were too dominant at the breakdown while he was also concerned at some of his side's defence.

He singled out prop Luke Bunn for his work, while Germaine Anaha and Cole Brown did all they could to lift Inglewood.

Coastal and Southern both scored three tires a piece at the Hub in Hawera in a match which could have gone either way.

Coastal had held a 30-18 lead before one of their players was yellow carded, helping Southern score a try to narrow the gap to just five points.

Lock Dylan Schuler was man-of-the-match for Coastal, while veteran halfback Brett Goodin and prop Hamish Mellow were also highlighted for their play.

Southern's best was lock Jon Smyth and wings Reece Furness and Jade Taylor, the latter playing his first senior game after leaving secondary school last year.

 - Taranaki Daily News

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