By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports maintained their perfect Championship record in a tough battle against Southern United, downing the hosts 34-19 at on a chilly afternoon at Memorial Showgrounds in Waikato Championship Rugby.
It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but Sports did what they needed to head home with five points. Fullback Josh Malpas lead the way with a double, backed up by tries to Matthew Towers, Shancy Waho and Fetu Sasalu while first-five Logan Karl kicked a penalty and four conversions. Southern, to their credit, picked up two late tries for their endeavours but were a distant second on a chilly afternoon in Tokoroa.
Southern got the ball rolling, catching Sports napping from a lineout to score under the posts and take a 7-0 lead, Sports then replied with a Karl Penalty for a 7-3 scoreline. Sports looked off their game and were met head on by a spirited Southern defence, who were quick off their line and strong around the ruck edges. Towers finally crossing after an extended period on attack to take the lead 8-7.
Halfback Ryan McNeil caught the defence short on the blind while hot on attack, a wide pass from the ruck base had Waho across in the corner on the stroke of half-time to take a hard earned 15-7 lead into half time.
Stung into action from a below par first half, Sports hit the ground running when midfielder Caleb Loomans burst through early in the second, beating defenders at ease before offloading to Malpas for his first, before picking up his second shortly after when a Towers break had Southern on the back foot creating space out wide. Karl converted both from the sidelines and Sports had jumped out to a 29-7 lead.
More pressure from the forwards had Southern reeling and Sasalu capitalised around the fringes in for his try and a 34-7 lead before Sports slipped off the boil, Southern riding that wave to two late tries.
For Sports, while it wasn’t their finest, there were patches of brilliance, Loomans was dominant in midfield, running strongly and defending well while Towers, along with his try, was a powerhouse around the ruck and showed impressive speed in the open. Prop Gordon Fullerton again impressed with ball in hand while Karl directed play from pivot well.
Sports have a top of the table clash looming ahead next weekend with season long unbeaten Taupiri coming to town. The winner taking a massive step to finishing atop the ladder come playoff time.