By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports secured their Premier status for next season, as well as booking a spot in the Championship Final at Waikato Stadium next saturday after an emphatic 44-15 win over Hinuera at Albert Park in Waikato Championship Rugby.
After stumbling to a 9-6 victory against the same opponents last week, Sports upped the physicality and went to a gear the visitors couldn’t match and never looked liked losing, celebrating legendary flanker Matthew Towers 100th game for the club in style.
Doubles to Ryan McNeil and Fetu Sasalu lead the way, while Caleb Loomans and Shauncy Waho picked up tries to round out a six try to two win.
Sports hit the ground running, laying siege to the Hinuera line, who defended valiantly in the face of wave after wave of attack, eventually succumbing after 12 minutes of tough grind when winger Shancy Waho danced his way through some would be defenders to score. Just two minutes later halfback McNeil picked up his first by going straight through the middle of the ruck to run away untouched for a 14-0 lead.
The visitors eventually saw some ball and answered back with a penalty goal to pivot Matt Ring but it only saw Sports back on the attack, Sasalu taking the ball from the back of an attacking scrum to barge over for his first and a 19-3 lead at half time.
The second half had Sports in control and chipping their lead further away with two penalty goals to fullback Logan Karl and a 25-3 lead. McNeil picked up his second, backing up a Waho break down the right flank before Hinuera finally crossed the line from a period of attacking pressure caught Sports short around the ruck, the score 30-8.
Sasalu again showed his power close to the line, crashing over for his second to stretch the lead again to 37-8 before a opportunistic intercept gifted Hinuera their second try, converted by Ring for a 37-15 scoreline.
Sports however had the final say in the dying minutes when a Josh Reynolds offload found midfielder Caleb Loomans in open space, striding the 35 meters to score under the post, expertly converted by man of the hour Towers for the final 44-15 scoreline.
It was a much improved performance from the previous week, lead by centurion Towers who was everywhere around the field and man of the match McNeil who thrived on the more flowing game. Prop Gordon Fullerton returned after two weeks off and promptly dominated with ball in hand and at set piece alongside his impressive propping partner Bailey Oliedam. Skipper Simon Kay was his usual inspirational self, giving the backs a chance to spread their wings, Caleb Loomans was brutal in midfield and Waho looked dangerous every time he touched the ball while Karl and Josh Malpas astute kicking pushed Hinuera backwards.
Sports now travel to Waikato Stadium to take on Taupiri at 2.00pm in the Championship Final.