By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports used their get out of jail free card this week as they bumbled their way through a tryless three point, 9-6 win over Hinuera in Waikato Championship rugby, securing the NZFP trophy for the second year for topping the Championship Ladder.
In a game buried beneath a suffocating penalty count, neither team was able to get any significant momentum and it was the hosts who looked more up to the task, throwing Sports of their hit and run game and making them roll up their sleeves and get into the grind.
Sports however failed to respond in kind and while they showed moments of flair, they buckled under the weight of their own mistakes and ill discipline and barely snuck out of town with the win.
Hinuera to their credit, showed more passion and commitment, especially at ruck time where they outmuscled their counterparts and stifled any attempt Sports made to kick start themselves.
Sports began looking to spread the ball but soon had to rethink their strategy which lead fullback Logan Karl hitting the upright from his first penalty goal attempt, followed closely by a successful second at the the 15 minute mark.
It wasnt until the thirtieth minute the Karl hit his second goal, a booming shot edged over the crossbar from halfway, followed five minutes later by an even better shot from slightly wider which cleared the deadball with ease and took Sports to a 9-0 half time lead.
The Sports tryline never really looked threatened, but Sports never really took control as Hinuera’s defence did just enough to hold.
After several misses in the first half, Hinuera scored two early penalty goals in the second to pull the score back to 9-6 and started to wrestle possession and territory away from Sports and take control. If not for some some desperate scrambling defence Hinuera could have scored the telling blow, but Sports took back some semblance of control in the last 10 minutes and finished the game in the visitors half to hold on for the win.
For Sports, there was not a lot to sing about, but flankers Matthew Towers and Connor Loomans, Towers in his 99th game and Loomans the man of the match for the second consecutive week put together an immense defensive effort while captain Simon Kay tried all he could to get his side moving forward. Fullback Logan Karl continues to blossom at this level and his kicking boots were ultimately the difference while halfback Ryan McNeil’s scrambling defence saved Sports several times from potential second half tries.
Sports will have to move on from this effort quickly as they have a return date with Hinuera at Albert Park in the Championship Semi Final, the winner securing their spot in both the following weeks final as well as the Premier grade next season.