The Hamilton City Tigers have given themselves the chance to claim a second piece of silverware for the season, by winning their way into the Waikato club rugby league final.
After taking out the more important WaiCoa Bays competition last month, the Tigers will this weekend face the Ngaruawahia Panthers in the local decider in Huntly, after beating Taniwharau 24-14 in Saturday's preliminary final at Resthills Park in Hamilton.
The Tigers dominated the early stages of the match and were up 10-0 after just eight minutes.
They opened their account in the fifth minute through a nice finish from winger Ray Wallace, after centre Faa Leilua hit the line and offloaded.
Although five-eighth Hayden Karena hit the post with his conversion attempt from almost in front, his team were in again three minutes later, when Eli Paul barged over under the bar.
From the kickoff the Tigers made an error and gifted Taniwharau field position.
Soon after the home side were nearly forced in-goal, but passed their way out of trouble, breaking out brilliantly before losing the ball near halfway.
Taniwharau looked set to narrow the deficit when they crossed in the left corner, but were called back for a forward pass.
However in the 19th minute the visitors did get points on the board when centre Joel Thompson was on the end of a huge overlap, after fellow centre Ruben Williams had thrown an over the head pass which nearly resulted in a try.
Having clawed their way back into the contest, Taniwharau got closer five minutes from halftime with a try to winger Malcolm Noda, who chased a kick into the in-goal, with the bounce sitting up nicely for him.
A lot of handling errors from both sides kept punctuating play and the Tigers took a 10-8 advantage to halftime.
Taniwharau made an immediate second half blunder by being penalised for being in front at the kickoff.
Minutes later the Tigers almost scored but for a forward pass, though it appeared a knock on was missed in the lead up.
But there was to be no stopping them in the 48th minute as Wallace took a 20-metre tap and unbelievably went straight through thanks to some very weak tackling, and he drew and passed for hooker Vinnie Strother to score.
At the other end the visitors had a chance when Noda toed ahead for a chasing team-mate, but Tigers fullback Vaughan Calcinai pulled off an awesome intercept catch.
The hosts then stamped their authority with their fourth try, when, in the 60th minute, interchange forward Tuhinga Tairakena scored in the left corner, when the Tigers had six again after a Taniwharau mistake.
That 12-point buffer was reduced to six though 10 minutes later when Taniwharau winger Tarapi Daniels crashed over and Noda added a nice conversion.
But the hosts managed to hold firm and four minutes from time Strother collected his second try after some good Tigers runs up the middle.
Tigers coach Morgan Kutia loved the start his side produced but acknowledged they "went to sleep".
"After those two tries the mistakes crept in and we dropped the football," he said. "It was about 15 sets and we only completed five. So we were our worst enemies. You give a team like Taniwharau a sniff and they just come roaring back at you. We were just fortunate that they didn't score more points than they did."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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