Celtic: And that makes it five!

STU PIDDINGTON
Last updated 05:00 29/07/2013
Celtic
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/Fairfax NZ
ON THE RUN: Celtic speedster Aporosa Tabulavaki heads to the tryline in the Hammersley Cup final.

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Celtic made it five senior rugby championships in a row when they lifted the Hamersley Cup in beating Pleasant Point 22-15 at Alpine Energy Stadium.

That is the best record of any club since finals were introduced and they could well continue the streak, with experience telling as 10 of their side played in their fifth consecutive grand final win.

Massive support for Pleasant Point was not enough to get their team home but it was a nail-biting contest and the country side were in the contest until the end.

Just when it looked as though the grand final might go into extra time, Celtic was gifted possession after a fumble from a kick and made the most of it as they stretched the Mud Dogs wide.

Right wing Tevita "Rooster" Latu was unmarked on the left flank and scored out wide. Willie Wright added the conversion.

Pleasant Point tried to get back into the game with four minutes left but to no avail.

What cost the country side most was their inability to get out of their own half after the break and Celtic eventually pounced.

Celtic played the percentages well and their standout was centre Pat Tupuola, with several excellent runs and a try, while Aporosa Tabulavaki always looked for work and was dangerous with ball in hand.

First five-eighth Willie Wright controlled the game well while halfback Sekope Maea distributed the ball quickly, despite being hampered by a knee injury.

The packs were well matched but Celtic captain Nick Strachan was quick to the breakdowns while fellow loose forwards Kali Latu and Carlos Tuiloma carried the ball well.

The tight five worked together, with prop Matt Fetu the standout, while hooker Jason Rooney also impressed.

Pleasant Point deserve a lot of credit after being the surprise package that set the standard all season. Their No 7, Damian O'Sullivan, got through an enormous amount of work and tackled well, while locks Andrew Garton and Luke Brice helped ensure parity with the Celtic pack.

Brice also came up with a tremendous tackle, chasing Kali Latu down when he looked, for all money, likely to score.

Pleasant Point's midfield of John Peeters and Mike Newman were superb and made several breaks but often ran out of meaningful support.

Halfback Patrick Ryan also impressed with a very good all-round performance, while Brad Tegelaars was very tidy outside him.

The game was all action from the start and Pleasant Point was 5-0 up inside the first minute when centre Newman found some space to stretch over.

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Shortly afterwards it looked to many as if Tabulavaki was away but the assistant referee momentarily lost grip of his flag and juggled it but the flying Fijian had put a foot in touch.

At the nine minute mark Tupuola scored an excellent try after he found a hole wide out to tie the scores 5-5.

Celtic then grabbed the lead when Tabulavaki found some space after a good break by No 6 Tuiloma, with Wright adding the extras.

Pleasant Point responded quickly with a strong run from first five-eighth Tegelaars, who ran hard at the defence from 10 metres out to score, and his conversion tied it 12-12.

With five minutes left in the half Newman made a great break from his own 22 and Peeters and Ryan joined in, getting inside the Celtic 22 before running out of steam.

A penalty from Tegelaars however saw them take the lead.

Right on halftime Tupuola made another great break and Kali Latu looked to be in under the bar until Brice's superb tackle.

The second half was much more of an arm wrestle with neither side looking likely to cross the line, but Wright tied the score with a 54th minute penalty.

Celtic then had a couple of half chances inside the last 10 minutes but Maea was ruled offside when he looked to be away and then replacement wing Rob Jordan was cut down by Ryan's covering tackle.

Unfortunately for Pleasant Point, prop Aofia Fagalima fumbled a ball on the 22m line and that was the luck Celtic needed to launch the match-winning attack.

The fulltime whistle brought both delight and relief for Celtic while Pleasant Point will rue the fact injuries left them a little light and they didn't quite click when it mattered most.

Referee Grant Day controlled the game well in his 100th senior game.

In the Scott Cup final Geraldine delivered a huge upset by beating hot favourites Waimate 23-22.

A try under the uprights in the last play of the game to first five-eighth Nathan Robinson was converted by Hamish Pawson to snatch the win.

Geraldine's comeback was remarkable.

Coming from behind, they played their best 40 minutes of the season to grab the silverware and keep Waimate scoreless in the second half.

- The Timaru Herald

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