Harlequins close down Celtic

STU PIDDINGTON
Last updated 05:00 07/04/2014
Kali Latu
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ
TRY TIME: Celtic’s Kali Latu scores to give his team some hope late in the game against Harlequins despite the best efforts of Harlequins players to stop him, including Tevita Tainuivau, right.

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Defending champions Celtic were dealt an early reminder that their sixth Hamersley Cup title will not come easily after going down 31-24 to Harlequins.

The big surprise of the round was, however, how easily Mackenzie beat Waimate, winning 29-10, while Temuka also notched up their first win with a 31-17 victory over Geraldine.

Pleasant Point were also comfortable winners in keeping Old Boys scoreless with a 30-0 win.

Those results leave Pleasant Point and Harlequins at the top of the table with the maximum 10 points while it is already looking tough for Old Boys and Geraldine without any.

At Alpine Energy Stadium there was plenty of niggle early as Celtic dominated possession and territory. Celtic blew an early chance of try when lock Ben Simpson got "white line fever" and was stopped short with men to burn outside him.

Fortunately, a minute later No 8 Kali Latu made up for it when he found a gap and, despite being tackled, reached out to score with Hamish Strachan converting.

Harlequins made the most of their only real opportunity in the half when centre Paula Fifita broke free and was involved twice in the movement that saw young lock Jamie Cameron score his first senior try.

Scott Norton landed the conversion but Strachan gave Celtic a 10-7 lead at halftime with a penalty just before the break.

Harlequins made Celtic pay just after the break when halfback Tevita Tainuivau took a quick tap 10m out and caught Celtic napping to score under the bar, and with Norton's conversion they grabbed the lead. Two quick tries to blindside Joel Tuiaki and lock Sione "Tui" Tauelangi had Harlequins cruising at 24-10.

Harlequins had absorbed all the first half pressure and then were near unstoppable from broken play.

They then extended the lead further to 31-10 after No 8 Sam Vea spun out of a couple of tackles to score after his side somehow managed to miss out on a seven pointer after Norton made a great break just to see his legs go out from under him and then a poor pass cost Tauelangi a chance, unmarked out wide.

With 15 minutes left Celtic staged a fightback with a good burst from second five Tim Penitani giving him a try and then Latu, who had switched to centre, scoring, and with Strachan landing both conversions the difference was seven with five minutes left.

Harlequins deservedly held on for the win as they made the most of their opportunities and looked really dangerous out wide.

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Both front rows battled well but Vea was a key in breaking the line while Tauelangi proved he would cause some headaches as his fitness improves.

Harlequins stand-out was their centre Fifita while left wing Maile I'Ongi also got involved all over the paddock.

For Celtic, Matt Fetu was very good in the tough stuff while blind side Tom Fleming played well.

The defending champions will have to do something with their backline out wide.

Strachan had a tidy game at first five and had a good combination with new halfback Soasi Haukinima.

A good Mackenzie outfit made the most of their opportunities to rout Waimate.

Waimate blew a couple of chances in the first half to find themselves 15-3 down at the break and then 29-3 down shortly afterwards as Mackenzie grabbed their four try bonus point.

In the end the Rams made the most of their opportunities in an excellent team performance, including their bench players contributing well.

Waimate struggled with their aggressive defence but to be fair they struggled for numbers with forwards converted into backs.

Mackenzie halfback George Lott put in another good performance and was rewarded with two tries.

Hooker Johnny Andrews had an excellent game as did flanker Sam Forsyth, who also scored a try.

Midfielder Fa'aitu Tuamheloa directed traffic well in a backline that functioned well.

For Waimate fullback Ben Messer, who stepped up from the B-team impressed as did wing Jade Halkett.

On the No 2 ground at Alpine Energy Stadium, Pleasant Point were just too good for Old Boys across the park.

They appear to have uncovered a gem in young first five Bryce Shearer. He looked a class act, running and dictating play well and he was one of Pleasant Point's four tryscorers.

For the Mud Dogs, front rowers Jake Harrison and James Christie put in solid performances while Damien O'Sullivan impressed.

Old Boys pack battled away well but they have nothing much out wide to cause concern.

Kris O'Sullivan put in an honest effort in his 199th senior appearance for the Blues while Kane-Paul Smith also gave it his all.

In the backs Tanu Suavine played well, but the Old Boys backline kicked away too much precious ball.

Temuka proved too good for Geraldine in the first despite finding themselves down 0-7 after 10 minutes.

The Magpies regathered and ran in four tries to 26-7 at the break and the game was effectively all over.

Temuka had a number of players who impressed, including Rupeni Cokanasiga who bagged a double.

Up front, Cody Hilligers played well at hooker, lock Paula Fonokalafi also made his presence felt with loose forwards Dylan Sawyers and Keith Darby never far away from the action.

Geraldine's forwards rumbled away well in patches, with some good one-off running but they could not quite get the momentum going.

Loose forwards Kieran Akers and captain Richard Harley were the best of the pack while Jared Trevathan and Kevin Moore tried hard to get the backline firing.

HAMERSLEY CUP

W L D F A BP Pts

Pleasant Point 2 0 0 65 10 1 10

Harlequins 2 0 0 68 34 2 10

Mackenzie 1 1 0 39 27 2 6

Celtic 1 1 0 41 41 1 5

Waimate 1 0 1 52 41 1 5

Temuka 1 1 0 41 54 1 5

Geraldine 0 2 0 27 66 0 0

Old Boys 0 2 0 12 72 0 0 

- The Timaru Herald

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