By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports held off a determined Morrinsville side to round off season 2017 with the Lone Star Cup in a physical battle at Albert Park, victorious in the Championship final 12-10.
Sports lead from start to finish on the back of relentless attack and a brace of tries to winger Maseiga Teomatavui, while a desperate defensive effort late in the piece put the finishing touch on an unbeaten second half of the season.
With sun on their backs and a cool chill in the air, Sports started scorching hot and dominated the early stages with accurate kicking to the corners and huge physicality at the breakdown. Morrinsville held on for dear life from the onslaught and were saved by the host’s white-line fever which left points on the field until finally Teomatvui got outside his man and crossed in the corner.
Sports still showed those flashes of brilliance but again couldn’t put the finishing polish on the movements, Morrinsville’s defence bending but refusing to break. They slowly worked their way back into the game, showing some flash through their backs, but relying on their strong forwards, eventually being rewarded from a strong lineout drive with a try to even the game 5-5 heading into halftime.
The second half kicked off with Sports on the rampage again. Jono Armstrong’s speed off the back of the scrum proved too much and put live-wire halfback Ryan McNeil in space working down touchline and drawing the last defender to put Teomatvui in for his second in the right corner. Evaan Reihana negotiated the wind expertly from the side-line for a 12-5 lead.
Morrinsville to their credit showed what this final meant to them and stepped up their game, catching their defence unaware down a very short blindside for flanker Andy Koli to run away, the try unconverted for the 12-10 scoreline.
Morrinsville had chances to take the game late, Dwayne Sweeney missing a penalty shot in the dying minutes to win, while Sports had chances to put the game away earlier in the piece that they couldn’t quite finish. All this lead to a wild last 10 minutes where Sports held out the desperate visitors, who threw everything they had in the tank at the host’s line and showed some real steel in the face of intense pressure.
For Sports, the forwards laid the platform, man of the match Cam Petch was everywhere and Armstrong imposed his will on the Morrinsville defence. McNeil was again electric around the fringes, celebrating his blazer game along with Simi Uluirasa and Clayton Stewart controlled well from first-five. The outside backs trio of Josh Moorby, Maseiga Teomatavui and Awa Morris were dynamic in counter attack.