Dull draw opens semifinals gate for chasing teams
A six-way contest for championship semifinal berths in Waikato premier club rugby got even tighter at the weekend.
And with a dull 9-9 draw between runaway Haswell Catley Trophy leaders Lodge City Rentals Hamilton Marist and Waikato's most title-winning club CBD Hamilton Old Boys on Saturday, slight inroads were also made into Marist's overall lead.
It was Marist's second draw in a row and while they are yet to lose a game, their lead was cut to five points with OTC Otorohanga leapfrogging Old Boys into second place with their 32-19 bonus-point home win over Ecolab Te Awamutu Sports.
Shenanigans Fraser-Tech also went past Old Boys thanks to a high-scoring 47-25 away win over rivals Wagon Wheel Bakery Morrinsville Sports in a clash for the Styvie Cup that honours the former coach and player of both clubs, the late Darrin Stevenson, and which did not disappoint.
Old Boys are now in fourth place, just two points ahead of APL Direct Hautapu, who were comfortable 27-3 home winners over TDO Melville, with Te Awamutu Sports another two points behind them.
That makes for a 12-point spread over the top six teams, with seven points covering second down to sixth.
At the other end of the table University had by far their biggest win for some time when they thumped cellar dwellers McPherson Contractors Hinuera 81-5 in Hamilton to go well clear of the bottom two rungs of the ladder and get within three of Melville.
Hamilton Old Boys 9
Hamilton Marist 9
Defence, penalties and missed shots at goal were the features of this disappointing clash between two of Waikato's top sides at Fred Jones Park.
The usual intensity expected in these sorts of clashes seemed to be missing from both sides' play and a general lack of sharpness, genuine go-forward and penetration meant both teams played lateral games that made it easy for two well-organised defences.
The constant breakdown battle as teams went from ruck to ruck with neither able to dominate resulted in referee Grant Stuart whistling up 30 penalties in the match and while that gave the goal-kickers plenty of opportunities Old Boys, through Dean Devcich and Thomas Bird, missed six penalty shots at goal out of nine attempts and Marist's Wharenui Hawera missed four out of seven.
Old Boys, whose below-strength forward pack fronted up well against Marist's, had first use of the wind and led 6-3 at halftime. Marist's forwards managed to put more phases together in the second half, with replacement prop Loni Uhila making a strong impact but turnovers or penalties at vital times cost them. Hawera had a chance to win it for Marist with time up from a wide-angled penalty kick but the miss in some ways summed up the game and the draw was a fair reflection of a poor contest.
Te Awamutu Sports 19
Otorohanga dominated this local derby up front at Island Reserve and scored six tries to three, getting their bonus point before halftime to lead 22-5 at the break.
The home side were particularly dominant in the second quarter of the match and when they scored their fifth try virtually from the second-half kickoff the match was all over at 27-5.
But Te Awamutu then had their best spell of the game, getting the upper hand for 20 minutes to put all sorts of pressure on the Otorohanga line, although they were rewarded with only one try during that time against strong defence.
Halfback Haami Martin, who scored two tries for the second week running, was outstanding for the victors, as was inspirational flanker Zak Hohneck, while lock Chris Middleton led the way for the visitors up front and second-five Leon Emery got them over the gain line with his hard, straight running and loose forwards Jono Armstrong and Carl Finlay got through a lot of graft.
Morrinsville Sports 25
This was for a trophy that meant a lot to both clubs and the home side were amped up in the first 30 minutes at Campbell Park against a strong Tech lineup that led 19-10 at the break, and then had too many guns and superior fitness in the second spell.
Fraser-Tech scored seven tries to three, led by standout performances from flanker Joe Scheres, lineout ace Peniasi Iowane and first-five Sam Christie who played the full 80 minutes this time and calmly controlled the game. Morrinsville, fired up by a pre-match team talk from former lock Tony Hart, produced one of their best forward efforts of the season, while the backs also put things together impressively right from the outset.
Fullback Semisi Masirewa was Morrinsville's player of the day, scoring two tries and exhibiting plenty of attacking class, while No8 Jeff Peek went well in his 60th and blazer game for the club.
Hautapu ground out a three tries-to-none victory over a willing Melville side at Memorial Park, Cambridge.
Hautapu led 17-3 at the changeover and their only scoring of the second half was a penalty goal from Josh Blue and then a late try to in-form winger Ethan Pollock with Melville never giving up.
Chiefs loose forward Scott Waldrom played No8 this week in the absence of George Doig and again made a big impression, while Alex Graham toiled hard at lock in place of Kent Fife.
Young halfback Ruan du Plooy, with two tries, and Pollock were the pick of the Hautapu backs.
Jake Ale played well at No8 for Melville and Mike Martin ran the game competently for them from the pivot spot.
It was one-way traffic at the Waikato University fields, with the students displaying attacking flair to pile on 13 tries as they crushed Hinuera, Anthony Momoemausu reports.
University's backs punished Hinuera, making inroads through the defence while finding space wide as winger Ilai Lomani crossed for a hat-trick of tries.
Not to be outdone, the forwards were in the scoring action, providing a solid platform at the setpieces where lock Ryan Nixon rumbled over on the back of an unstoppable rolling maul.
The students led 38-0 at the break and things were no different in the second half as University constructed several long-range tries, highlighted by an end-to-end effort where Sean Nixon skilfully eluded defenders to finish off.
Hinuera were starved of possession throughout, but loose forward Dion Sylvester dived over in the corner for his side's only points. It was a reward for Sylvester who was a standout with his surging carries as the visitors enjoyed a brief attacking spell late in the game.
AT A GLANCE
Waikato club rugby results from Saturday: Senior A, premier division (Haswell Catley Trophy): Hautapu 27 (Ruan du Plooy 2, Ethan Pollock tries; Josh Blue 2 cons, 2 pens; Ruamai Erueti con) Melville 3 (Mike Martin pen). HT 17-3. Otorohanga 32 (Haami Martin 2, Sekove Seriki 2, Steve Moon, Villiame Seuseu tries; Moon con) Te Awamutu Sports 19 (Jono Armstrong, Kirtis McNaughten, Carl Finlay tries; Nathan George 2 cons). HT 22-5. University 81 (Ilai Lomani 3, Steven Cullingworth 2, Sean Nixon 2, Ryan Nixon, Louis Rogers, Jarrod Cannon, John Te Ruki-Chambers, Matthew Brown, Kelly Anderson tries; Trent Renata 6, Leon Williams 2 cons) Hinuera 5 (Dion Sylvester try). HT 38-0. Fraser-Tech 47 (Tarrin Te Moni, Joe Scheres, Matt Kenny, Sam Christie, Matt Vant Leven, Peniasi Iowane, Jamie Vette tries; Christie 5, Vant Leven cons) Morrinsville Sports 25 (Semisi Masirewa 2, Bryce Cowley tries; Cowley con, 2 pens; Semisi Masirewa con). HT 19-10. Hamilton Old Boys 9 (Thomas Bird 2, Dean Devcich pens) Hamilton Marist 9 (Wharenui Hawera 3 pens). HT 6-3.