By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports managed to mix a forgettable 65 minutes with an unforgettable 15 to sneak home 39-38 over a fired up Leamington side at Leamington Domain in Waikato Championship Rugby.
Josh Moorby and Api Mocekula bagged braces in a game that for most, Sports looked a distant second to a Leamington side who were physical, confrontational and performed far better than their ladder position warranted, leading 31-11 with only 15 to go.
Leamington controlled early but it was Sports who struck first through the boot of fullback Josh Moorby to lead 3-0. That was where the good ended for Sports, who looked like a side with an eye on the semi-finals. A combination of penalties, errors and poor defence had Sports down 3-24 in the blink of an eye, the hosts growing in confidence as their local faithful grew in voice.
Sports finally showed some physicality and were rewarded on the stroke of half time with a try to centre Api Mocekula who reaped the rewards of quick ball and a splintered defensive line.
Down 8-24 at half, Sports immediately increased the tempo, Evaan Reihana chipping a penalty goal to pull the score back to 11-24, but went off the boil and conceded another to trail 11-31. Sports tightened up defensively, the introduction of flanker Jono Armstrong having immediate effect around the fringes.
Time ticked away as Sports slowly started to get control of the game, then exploded in a scintillating final 15 minutes, kicked off by a stunning try to Josh Moorby, with clever interplay between forwards and backs that had the hosts on their heels, the final switch of direction putting Moorby in. Reihana calmly slotted the goal from wide out and an 18-31 score
Moorby struck again just minutes later converted again from Reihana from wide out, followed quickly by Mocekulas second and finally the lead after Reihana’s conversion made it 32-31
Not to be outdone, Leamington charged down the clearing kick from the ensuing restart to take the lead back 38-32 into the final minute. Sports got the ball back deep in their own half and unleashed Maseiga Teomatavui raced down the line, stepped inside the cover defence and score, leaving Reihana with the conversion to win, which he put straight down the middle from 15 meters to the right of the post.
In a forgettable first hour, Josh Reynolds was the pick in another man of the match performance, while Mocekula always looked threating when he got the ball out wide. Armstrong stamped his mark on his return game with an outstanding second half. Halfback Ryan McNeil was lively around the fringes and Reihana was again vital with 5 from 5 from the tee included 4 pressure conversions from wide out.
Semi-finals and premier status beckon next week, with Sports needing a far more complete performance as Taupiri come to town.