The WaiCoa Bays Stallions have kept alive their faint hopes of making the final of the national premiership after a dominant win over the Central Vipers in Rotorua yesterday.
Having been dealt a hiding by the Akarana Falcons last Monday, the Stallions bounced back in fine style in round five of the Albert Baskerville Trophy competition, beating the Vipers 42-12 at Puketawhero Park.
The win takes the Stallions to third place on the ladder, equal with second-placed Akarana, but well behind on points differential.
Even a win over the Wellington Orcas this weekend is unlikely to be enough though, with the Stallions probably needing to topple the top-of-the-table Counties-Manukau Stingrays in the last round or have a couple of unlikely results go their way.
However, Stallions coach Morgan Kutia wasn't losing hope.
“We're still in the hunt, we just have to keep progressing,” he said.
“Anything could happen in the competition. If a team brings their A game, any team can win against any other team.
“You never say never.
“It just depends on how well you build up to a game, the personnel that you have on the field and how much they desire.”
From what his team produced yesterday, Kutia has reason to be cheery.
Despite resting a few players, the Stallions racked up eight tries in the beautiful conditions and wore down the visitors' pack.
“We purposely picked a larger forward pack than normal to get us good go-forward and then grind their forward pack down,” Kutia said. "It was probably the biggest forward pack we've had all year.”
That meant the Stallions didn't get intimidated by the Vipers' physicality but rather used it as motivation to perform.
Second-rower Dana Ratu opened the scoring in the fourth minute, before winger Ryan Gordon and centre Leigh Bristowe also crossed, while the visitors got on the board late through centre Peta Simmonds to go to halftime down 14-6.
Stallions captain and second rower Simon Beale went over early in the second spell, before Simmonds caught everyone off guard and dashed 60 metres from a tap penalty.
But from there the floodgates opened as the Vipers began to tire defensively. Tries to Bristowe (50th minute), hooker Vinnie Stothers (54th minute), winger Jordan Tai Rakena (56th minute) and Gordon (63rd minute), along with five Josh Weeden conversions, eased the Stallions home.
“We were playing good football, we were playing out our sets, getting back to back sets and just putting them under pressure,” Kutia said. "When we dropped the ball then they'd come back, so that's something to work on, our ball retention.
“We were concentrating on an 80-minute performance today. There are still things to work on, like penalties given away, and we got a bit rusty. It's pretty difficult playing an 80-minute perfect game but they kept trying throughout the game so we're happy with that.”
WaiCoa Bays Stallions 42 (Ryan Gordon 2, Leigh Bristowe 2, Dana Ratu, Simon Beale, Vinnie Stothers, Jordan Tai Rakena tries; Josh Weeden 5 cons) Central Vipers 12 (Peta Simmonds 2 tries; Cruz Rauner 2 cons)
- © Fairfax NZ News
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