Te Awamutu Sports Firehawks Rugby League team enter the ‘top five’ playoffs for the 2016 Waikato premier championship seeded fourth after suffering a 40-32 loss to Hauraki Tigers. The win to Hauraki at Albert Park on Saturday confirmed their fifth placing on the points table, meaning they will again meet the Kirstie McGrail sponsored Firehawks this coming Saturday at the same venue.
Coach Kane Rangitonga praised the opposition after beating the Firehawks for the first time in five seasons. “They turned up to play and we didn’t,” he said. “We were missing a few of our regular frontline players with Tawhiri Howell, Richard-Tom How and Te Aroha Keremeta out through injury and Ullysis Kara still returning from overseas — but we still had a team capable of doing the job for us.” The Firehawks shot out to an eight point lead after 10 minutes with Anthony Tuiavii and Raymond Spooner scoring tries.
Hauraki replied after 20 minutes with a try down the left hand flank where the defence was found wanting. Isaac Howell replied for the Firehawks, breaking the tackles of two defenders and outpacing the fullback to score handy to the posts for an easy conversion. Hauraki scored the next three tries to take a 16-14 lead with five minutes remaining in the half. Raymond Spooner showed strength and determination, spinning out of a tackle to score handy to the posts for Henare Raukawa to convert, giving Firehawks the lead, 20-16.
Not to be outdone, Hauraki scored again and converted to enter the break with a 22-20 lead, gaining in confidence by the minute. The Firehawks had opportunities to even the score by halftime after being awarded two penalties in front of the posts but decided to go for six points instead of taking the two points on offer. Isaac Howell started the scoring in the second half, with Raukawa adding the trimmings to put the Firehawks back in front, 26-22. Hauraki replied with two converted tries, taking toll of a tiring Firehawks’ defence, to take a commanding 34-26 lead.
The Firehawks scored next when Raukawa dived over from dummy half close to the line, which he converted, to get his team within two points, 34-32, with five minutes to play. Hauraki sealed their win scoring handy to the posts. “We’re still very much in this competition, despite all the drama we’ve been through this season ” says Rangitonga. “We didn’t play our best this week but we know what we are going to have to do from now as we’ve been in this position before. “It means we have to win every game from here to make the final, then win the grand final to become back-to-back champions, a feat the club managed to achieve in 2007.”