Te Awamutu spent a chilly afternoon coughing up nine tries going down 61-15 to Fraser Tech in Waikato premier rugby. It was the host’s second 50-point loss of the season at Albert Park on Saturday. The score somewhat flattered the visitors. Sports played well when they had the ball in hand. Problem was, they turned too much possession over and the visitors were lethal on counterattack, scoring most of their tries from long range.
After spending the opening 15 minutes on defence and conceding a try, Sports hit back with a try to hooker Jack Munce from a slick lineout move. The spate of tries continued with Tech scoring two more before Sports replied with a try to halfback Dion Spice on the end of a nice breakout from Cameron Petch for a 19-10 scoreline.
The telling moment came on the stroke of halftime when fullback Ryan McNeil made a break and offloaded to Esera Esera, who stormed down field, only to have the last pass intercepted and Fraser Tech went all the way back to score — turning a potential 19-17 halftime scoreline into a 26-10 deficit from which Sports never really recovered. The floodgates opened as Tech ran in five more second half tries. Sports did have the final say right on fulltime when a long range breakout resulted in winger Apeleki Mocekula finishing off. The (unsuccessful) conversion was taken by Stephen ‘Irish’ Gardiner.
It was his last act of the season before heading home to Ireland. Gardiner was outstanding in his final appearance for the club, strong with ball in hand and physical in defence. Aside from a stint in the sinbin, man of the match Simon Kay was strong at flanker. Petch and captain Christian Kelleher got through their usual defensive workload and Mocekula and Esera looked dangerous on the wings.
The game also saw the return of veteran Paul Wheeler to the Senior A side with an appearance from the bench in the second half. Sports embark on a crucial three week journey from here, hoping to retain their premier status for next season. First up, they host Morrinsville at Albert Park this Saturday, hoping to kick start promotion relegation with a strong performance.