By Justin Miezenbeek
A determined Te Awamutu Sports side continued to make the top sides work for their points, but were ultimately worn down by a classy Hautapu outfit, going down 29-3 in the “Battle of the Waipa” in Waikato Premier rugby.
Persistent rain and a howling cross wind meant the game was one played in trenches and the visitors showed why they are one of the top sides, controlling the close quarters and scoring twice in each half, wearing down the gallant Te Awamutu defence.
Sports opened the scoring through an Evaan Reihana penalty goal, reward for solid wet weather rugby where himself and pivot Logan Karl pushed Hautapu back into their quarter for the most of the first half and used their line speed to pressure Hautapu into mistakes.
Sports held the 3-0 lead until the 30th minute where a Todd Doolan penalty tied the scores.
The visitors finally crossed for their first try, taking the lead 10-3 then grabbed the momentum shifting score on the stroke of halftime, up 15-3 at the break.
The visitors decided that ball control was the best plan in the second stanza, and that’s exactly what happened as Hautapu kept the ball in close and their physical forward pack battered the hosts with wave after wave, playing the majority of the second half in the Sports quarter. They were rewarded with their third score due to an overlap on the left flank, converted by Doolan to take a 22-3 lead.
Keeping to theme, Hautapu kept the ball in hand, but the Sports defence kept throwing themselves into the contact and denying the visitors easy points, eventually breaking when a tired scrum got caught and conceded a penalty try in the 70th minute.
Sports best chance came in the last few minutes where back to back penalties got them into the Hautapu quarter for the first time and threw everything they had left at the Hautapu line but were ultimately held out.
For Sports the forwards did the heavy lifting, again punching above their weight, especially at lineout time with No.8 Patrick O’Sullivan and lock Josh Reynolds a constant thorn, stealing multiple throws at the front, while Loosies Matthew Towers and Connor Loomans made a mountain of tackles. Fullback Josh Malpas was solid in clean up at the back in a game where the backs didn’t see much attacking ball but were all solid in defence.
Sports are at home for the third week in a row, hosting Fraser Tech, where a win could see them leap Morrinsville on the points table, who lost to Tech last week.