By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports picked the worst day to put together their worst performance, snatching a draw from the Jaws of defeat against Taupiri in Waikato Championship Rugby.
They had an injury time shot at the win, but the conversion didn’t quite come around enough to split the uprights from replacement Raroa Lord, leaving Taupiri despondent and Sports gasping in relief.
The top of the table clash promised much and a great track under bright sunshine set the stage perfectly, but the game was buried beneath a barrage of penalties and a wave of inaccuracies, with the hosts giving the visitors a lesson in getting up for a big game.
Taupiri opened the scoring through a Hayden Ivill penalty goal which was matched by Evaan Reihana, but the hosts were by far the dominating side and were rewarded with an Ivill try and an 8-3 lead. Reihana chipped another 3 but a slick blindside move from Taupiri gave them their second score and a 15-6 lead, Reihana adding another goal to pull back to 15-9 at the break.
Sports barely threatened the Taupiri half let alone their line, only a couple of threatening moves quickly sniffed out by the defence.
Ivill and Reihana traded goals again before Reihana brought the game back to 18-15. Sports incredibly still in with shot despite mistakes and ill discipline making them a distant second.
Taupiri seemed to have struck the killer blow with a try late in the second half to stretch the lead to 23-15 and with Sports struggling to get any semblance of rhythm, they just needed to close.
With 10 minutes to go, Lord slotted a penalty goal to pull the lead back to 5 points but turnovers continued to haunt Sports until skipper Simon Kay, shifting into hooker, stole a tight head from under their own posts which unleashed Maseiga Teomatavui down the left flank only to be pulled down 20 out. Sports flew into the ruck and winger Rob Gurnett found himself in space and crashed over in the corner to tie the game.
In an overall disappointing performance there were a few highlights, veteran flanker Matthew Towers got through a mountain of cleanup work while captain Kay was strong at No.8 and when called into cover at hooker. Replacement halfback Ryan McNeil added some spark in the second half in an otherwise flat team effort, straight off the back of a first half hat-trick playing for the Bs.
A big local derby looms next week, with Pirongia hosting Sports, Sports hoping to bounce back after this weeks wake up call.