Taniwharau are Wai-Coa-Bay rugby league champions for 2008.
The green and golds, based at the Waahi Pa in Huntly, were too strong for Otumoetai Eels in Saturday's final at Davies Park, winning 40-4. The victory made it back-to-back titles for Taniwharau, who proved their appearance in the last three finals gave them too much experience on how to play grand final football.
You would not have thought so in the opening 10 minutes when the defending champions turned over their first four possessions, including a forward pass from the kickoff. But Otumoetai could not capitalise from these mistakes, with the Taniwharau defensive effort outstanding.
Defence has been the hallmark of the Taniwharau season, making it really difficult for their opposition to cross the line. This resolute defence was demoralising for Otumoetai, who couldn't penetrate despite having field position on many occasions.
It was 55 minutes before Otumoetai could score any points, while Taniwharau had compiled 20 after leading 8-0 at the break.
Leading the Taniwharau defensive effort were hard working forwards Justin Carnegie, Thomas Baker and Greg Cameron. The backs did their bit also through through the deeds of fullback Tobias Tuhakaraina, who was outstanding, and captain Willy Rangi.
Rangi was man of the match and received the Tawera Nikau Trophy for his efforts. Tuhakaraina must have pushed Rangi close. He was safe under the high ball, very solid on defence and a handful when returning the ball.
Taniwharau scored some well constructed tries through good lead-up work from props Harley Raihe and Troy Kapea. Cameron was dangerous out wide and on the fringes and Baker was everywhere in support and carting the ball forward.
Congratulations must go to coach Morgan Kutia who said "it's nice to win in style".
"Our goal was to suffocate them when they had the ball and be patient and finish when in possession," Kutia said after the match.
"I'm pleased to say we were successful on both fronts, really pleased for the players this day is about rewarding their efforts for the season's work."
Otumoetai did not put up the white flag but were simply outclassed. Their best were the Anderson brothers, Shian and Brendon.
In the plate final Whakatane proved too strong for Tauranga, winning 22-4 in an entertaining match.
The day, however, belonged to Taniwharau, who secured their third champions' title and the dynasty looks set to continue for a while after they lost only once this season.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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