Waikato Rugby Union club championships
Premier Division A semifinals, Waikato Breweries Shield: Hamilton Marist 21 (Joe Webber, Jono Malo tries; Wharenui Hawera con, 3 pens) Fraser-Tech 0. HT 18-0. Otorohanga 19 (Ross Fenton, James Hemara, Turuva Lumelume tries; Hemara 2 cons) Hamilton Old Boys 11 (Anthony Coffey try; Dylan Collier 2 pens). HT 5-11. Waikato Draught Plate: Hautapu bt Te Awamutu Sports by default, Melville 29 Morrinsville Sports 7. Premier Division B (Rowe Cup) semifinals: Te Awamutu Sports 8 Fraser-Tech 5, Hamilton Marist 12 Morrinsville Sports 6. Promotion-relegation series (Lion Cup): Te Rapa 30 Hinuera 10, University 57 Taupiri 12.First Division A (Mooloo Shield) semifinals: Southern United bt Pirongia by default, Putaruru bt United Matamata Sports by default. Plate Cup final: Leamington 22 Frankton 21. First Division B (WRU Trophy) semifinals: United Matamata Sports 27 Southern United 7, Taupiri 10 Hinuera 7. Under-21 (Elliot Shield) semifinals: Hamilton Marist 18 Hamilton Old Boys 7, University 28 Morrinsville Sports 10. Under-85kg (Don Shergold Trophy) final: Te Rapa 16 Hamilton Marist 10.
For the first time since 2008 the top two qualifiers have made it through to the Waikato premier club rugby championship final.
And for the first time since 2000 that final will not be played at Waikato Stadium.
Top seeds and red-hot favourites Lodge City Rentals Hamilton Marist will take on No2 seeds and defending champions OTC/Freightlines Otorohanga at Marist Park this Saturday, Marist looking for their first title since 2003.
The weekend's semifinals were not without controversy and then there was a decision to be made as to the venue of this weekend's Waikato Breweries Shield final.
A complicating factor was the Super Rugby semifinal at the stadium this Saturday night and the fact the Waikato team would be heading to Ruatoria for the Tuesday Ranfurly Shield defence against East Coast on the Sunday.
As top qualifiers Marist had the option of where they wanted to play the final and club president Paul McGill confirmed that with both their premier B and under-21 sides also in finals they had decided to play all three at Marist Park with only the A final on the No1 ground. Kickoff times are still to be confirmed.
The Waikato Breweries Shield final has only been played away from the stadium/Rugby Park once since the introduction of semifinals and that was in 2000 when the stadium was being built and finals day was held at Stan Heather Park.
In the semifinals it was pretty plain sailing for Marist on their home ground, shutting out Shenanigans Fraser-Tech 21-0, but Otorohanga had to come from six points down at halftime and emerge from some controversy in the final quarter to overcome Bank Bar Hamilton Old Boys 19-11 at Otorohanga.
Hamilton Old Boys...11
This semifinal played to a surprise script with Old Boys setting the pace with some effective tactics in the first half at Island Reserve before the home team got their game going in the second spell.
But the visiting coaches were left fuming at the end, taking issue with some key decisions after the home side led 12-11 going into the final 20 minutes.
It all started with Otorohanga prop Whetu Barber being yellow carded in the 60th minute for what looked like a bad tip tackle and while Old Boys complained Barber did not take up the required sin-bin position behind the dead ball line, two minutes later an off-the-ball incident led to a brief all-in brawl as visiting No8 Dave Faville lay on the ground.
Assistant referees were again consulted and the other Otorohanga starting prop Ted Tauroa was spoken to by referee Damian Botherway but only penalised.
Then five minutes from the end hooker replacement flanker Turuva Lumelume was awarded the match-sealing try behind the posts from a twisting 5m scrum when he appeared to knock the ball on.
"There were at least three match-defining moments that were taken out of our hands and we didn't take the opportunities we had around those match-defining moments," said Old Boys coach Craig West, who spoke to the officials at length after the final whistle.
"There was a clear spear tackle that should have been a red card immediately - spear tackles so dangerous like that always start at a red card, you talk to any referee.
"There was another match defining moment over here off the ball that should have been another red card and the knock-on that was awarded as a try when there were clear moments when the touch judge indicated it wasn't.
"Those three moments that are not our doing or taken out of our hands were probably the biggest defining moments of that game, I think," he said.
West, who admitted his team had also not taken full advantage of the areas they had aimed to exploit Otorohanga and had missed a couple of kicks at goal, said Tauroa had clearly flattened Faville with a punch.
The home side believed it had been retaliation for an alleged earlier kick to head of one of their players.
Referee Botherway later confirmed he was satisfied the final try was legitimate and the ball bounced after being placed in the in-goal area, felt the yellow card incident was more a careless tackle than a tip tackle and said all the officials had been too far from the other incident while following the play to make a call beyond awarding a penalty.
Otorohanga coach Noel Barber said he had been concerned his team's discipline had been in danger of unravelling during those middle stages of the second half but praised the cool head of skipper Zak Hohneck for pulling his side together and demanding a more concentrated effort.
There is no doubt the home side had the better of the second spell and were totally dominant in the final 10 minutes or so as they pounded the Old Boys line after first-five James Hemara had strolled through for a converted try to put them in the lead 12-11 three minutes after the break after similar pressure from forwards and backs.
Old Boys bustled Otorohanga into errors with a strong kick-chase game and aggressive defence in the first spell to lead 11-5 at the break through an Anthony Coffey try and two Dylan Collier penalty goals to a sole Ross Fenton try to Otorohanga.
While the visitors used their hard-working mobile forwards effectively up the middle, the home side had their own game plan and Barber said he had always remained confident that they could employ their trademark strong finish.
"When we've got the ball in hand and we start going forward it's just a flow-on effect and while at times we are our own worst enemies, when we play rugby we really go out there and play rugby," he said.
Lock Anthony Wise and No8 Rory Grice led the way with their ball carrying and defence up front for the winners, while fullback Fenton was always dangerous on attack, combining with hard-running second-five Joe Perawiti and Fijian threequarters Solo Korovata, Eseroma Nabawala and Rupeni Seduadua.
Hamilton Marist played the better rugby throughout the match and deserved to win this semifinal at Marist Park, John Holt reports.
The Marist side have played expansive rugby all season and were the highest points scorers in pool play, but a lesser known fact about their success throughout the Haswell Catley Trophy rounds is that they were also the best defensive side, conceding far fewer points than any of the other sides through the 18 rounds of pool play.
Marist finished with a solid enough 21-0 winning margin on Saturday, but that win was once again based on a huge defensive effort.
Fraser-Tech started the game content to retain possession and to charge into the Marist defensive lines, but made little progress into their opponents' territory and the green-and-whites were first to score after just seven minutes of play. Wing Joe Webber kicked behind the Fraser-Tech backline, then toed the ball ahead and outpaced the cover defenders to dive on the ball and score. First -five Wharenui Hawera kicked the conversion and a short time later kicked two penalty goals to have Marist ahead 13-0 after 20 minutes of play.
Fraser-Tech were still well in the game at this stage; lock Sean Hohneck was winning plenty of clean lineout possession for his side and rampaging No 8 Wilisoni Qiqiwaga led frequent charges by the visiting forwards into the Marist defences. But those defences held firm and Tech made little forward progress into Marist territory.
Late in the spell Marist centre Niko Malo broke through from halfway, then unloaded to his brother Jono who dived over to score a try in the corner, giving Marist an 18-0 lead at halftime.
Hawera's third successful penalty goal early in the second spell increased Marist's lead to 21-0, but strangely there was no further scoring in the match. Marist seemed content to defend their lead and give all of their squad game time, while Fraser-Tech battled away, charging into the Marist defensive lines time and again throughout the second half for scant reward.
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