Harlequins into grand final

STU PIDDINGTON
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2012
Kilifi
HARD TO STOP: Temuka’s Kilifi Sivpeli = is lowered in a tackle by Harlequins Nathan O’Connell.

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A big call by the referee in the final play of game cost Temuka a chance of their first grand final in nine years.

Referee Charlie Hough penalised Temuka for an incorrect bind on their scrum feed, a call that will be long debated for its timing and influence on the outcome of the game.

Down 16-18 Harlequins second five Joshua Via stepped up and landed the crucial goal, but even the crowd had to wait for the referees' assistants to confer briefly before the flags were raised.

There is no doubt Temuka were dealt a cruel blow having led for six minutes and looked like progressing in the grand final as the clock wound down.

Temuka captain Dylan Sawers said he was very proud of his team.

"We left our hearts out there."

Harlequins captain Craig Miller, playing his 200th senior game, looked both delighted and relieved at the win.

The result means Harlequins will face Celtic in the grand final on Saturday, for the fifth year in a row, with Celtic champions in the previous three.

The encounter at Alpine Energy Stadium was a tense, tough battle with both sides doing some good things but also making little mistakes that cost them continuity.

Harlequins had a couple of key men in the pack that kept them going forward, while their backs made a better fist of the ball they received than in previous weeks.

No 8 Sam Vea made them huge metres and even put an up and under up and regathered it.

Prop Timaru Tafa was also an excellent ball carrier and kept up his penchant for scoring tries, grabbing the only one for Harlequins, while No 7 Eric Smith was a crucial man at the breakdown.

Also pulling off the first real upset of the season Temuka had many heroes, from one to 15.

The Magpies defence was terrific with No 8 Joe Kotobalavu superb while fullback Tenari Saumani was brave.

He bounced off a charging Vea and ended up with blood pouring from his chin but was patched up and returned.

Vea also had the medics to him on several occasions but also bounced back.

For the Magpies halfback Mark Tutton was superb and used his tactical ability well. Open side flanker Semisi Paseka was everywhere and also made some excellent runs.

Prop Matt Donehue was everywhere, while Sawyers tackled himself to a standstill.

Tutton's fifth penalty looked to have it won, after Blair Struthers had also landed a 45m effort in the first half.

But it was not to be. Harlequins is a side that never gives up and in the end it paid off for them, albeit unexpectedly.

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Midway through the first half the game was tied up 3-all and then 6-all five minutes later as neither side could get any ascendancy.

Temuka went into the break 12-6 up and Harlequins had hooker Viliami Pola in the bin after a high and late tackle.

Just after the break Vea made a bullocking 40m run that set the ball up close to Temuka's line and Tafa burrowed over.

Via's conversion had them up 13-12 with Pola still in the bin and it looked ominous for the Magpies.

They regrouped, however, and a Tutton penalty had them back in front.

Harlequins then looked like coming back after Temuka were called for a man in front of the kicker.

They turned down the shot at goal for the lineout, and then threw it in not straight.

In the 65th minute Harlequins had a man held up over the line as the Magpies defended strongly.

Two minutes later Temuka killed the ball and Vai landed the penalty to snatch back the lead 16-15.

Temuka then came back again at Harlequins and a head-high tackle saw them awarded a penalty. Tutton nailed it to be back in front with six minutes left to play.

The Magpies held on despite Harlequins' best efforts and looked to have it won with time almost up and a scrum feed on their own 22m line.

The referee then chose to go to the other side from the scrum feed and after the Magpies won the scrum found fault with the binding, handing Harlequins the opportunity to snatch the win, which they gratefully accepted.

Harlequins presidents grade rugby side managed a 36-31 win over Valley in their final.

In the bottom four competition; Geraldine defeated Pleasant Point 24-22 and will now play Mackenzie this weekend.

- South Canterbury

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