Tigers, Panthers' wins earn them week off
Hamilton City Tigers and Ngaruawahia Panthers will have the luxury of another week off after securing narrow victories in the WaiCoa Bays club rugby league competition at the weekend.
Tigers and Panthers had finished top of their respective pools and earned a bye in the first week of the complex finals series and with further wins now qualify for the semifinals.
Both sides were forced to work hard in their matchups, with the Tigers snatching victory in the final minutes 30-26 to defeat the Pacific Sharks, while the Panthers held off Taniwharau 24-20.
In the sudden-death contests, the Pikiao Warriors hosted the Taupo Phoenix, managing to sneak past 16-14 as the Otumoetai Eels enjoyed a far more comprehensive result thumping Hukanui 46-0.
Fans were treated to a thrilling encounter at Resthills Park in Hamilton as it appeared the Sharks would pull off an unlikely upset over Tigers.
The opening stages of the match were riddled with errors as the visitors enjoyed an early opportunity to strike first after an untidy kickoff found touch, giving the Sharks the feed into the scrum.
The Sharks were unable to take advantage as the Tigers were rewarded with a penalty easing the pressure.
A handling error by the Sharks would prove costly as Tigers lock forward Nicholas Read opened the scoring in the 14th minute, brushing aside a Sharks defender to crash over.
It seemed the Sharks were their own worst enemy, committing errors in their own half. When standoff Vinnie Morunga found touch on the full with a clearing kick, the Tigers obliged when Simon Beale barged his way over for his side's second try.
Matters were made worse for the Sharks when an offload was swooped on by Jamal Tamaiva as he blitzed the field to extend their lead to 16-0.
A loose carry from the kickoff by the Tigers would invite the Sharks back into the matchup and they capitalised when Shaun Plant crossed the line.
The momentum looked to have swung clearly in favour of the Sharks when halfback Kale Pomare produced a well judged 40/20 kick. From the ensuing set Pomare featured again with a lovely cut-out pass for winger Joseph Cook to finish off in the corner.
Immediately from the kickoff, Pomare spilled the ball forward while attempting to make the catch. The Sharks were fortunate not to concede further points but a penalty for a high tackle by Delany Takiri gave Tigers fullback Vaughan Calcinai an easy shot at goal as the Tigers went to the break 18-8 ahead.
It was the visitors who made the stronger start in the second spell, forcing back-to-back drop-outs and the pressure told as Andrew McAuley smashed through the Tigers defence to score after Plant made the initial break.
In a controversial moment, the Sharks drew level after the young Sharks backs linked up to send Cook down the sideline.
A Sharks player looked to have been impeded as Cook attempted to draw a defender, but the ball was hacked ahead for Vinnie Stothers to dot down.
The try stood and Morunga's conversion would give the visiting side their first lead of the fixture.
The home side were snapped back into action and after the Sharks failed to clear a kick on their final tackle the Tigers were in a great attacking position.
The ensuing set saw the ball spread wide for winger Ray Wallace to score as the Tigers wrestled the lead back. Calcinai would nail the sideline conversion for a four-point lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
Moments later, a cheeky chip kick by the Sharks would fall favourably in the hands of fullback Ezra Takiri as he sped away from defenders, much to the delight of the travelling supporters.
However, in one final twist the Tigers' Hayden Karena jinked his way past the defence he created space and offloaded to Calcinai, who scored to dash Sharks hopes of hosting a semifinal.
Calcinai capped off his brilliant goal-kicking display by converting his own try.
The Sharks will look to qualify for a spot in the last four when they host Pikiao this weekend with the Phoenix and Hukanui now eliminated.
Taniwharau will look to do the same when the Eels travel north in the other matchup of the weekend.
WaiCoa Bays Premier Club Rugby League Competition: Finals, Week 2: Hamilton City Tigers 30 Pacific Sharks 26; Ngaruawahia Panthers 24 Taniwharau 20; Otumoetai Eels 46 Hukanui 0; Pikiao Warriors 16 Taupo Phoenix 14.