Te Awamutu Sports will have plenty to build on after tasting defeat in the first round of Waikato Premier Rugby, going down 36-56 to Hamilton Marist in a sweltering feast of running rugby.
Rookie winger Queyst Michael-Tapu starred with three tries in his first match out of school, while flanker Josh Reynolds worked himself to a standstill and man of the match honors.
Sports more than matched their opponents, but will kick themselves for a five minute period on either side of the break, where they let in 15 points (10 before and 5 after), turning a 17-17 stalemate into a 17-32 deficit in the blink of an eye and never quite recovered.
Pivot Logan Karl got the scoring under way with a penatly goal, but Marist centre Vatu Laeno blew straight through the middle to answer straight back for a 7-3 lead. Marist went back on attack when Michael-Tapu snatched an intercept, giving Sports the lead 10-7. The hosts sprung back into life and were rewarded for constant pressure when pivot Quinn Collard found space around the fringes to score and followed that with a long range penalty goal for a 17-10 lead.
Sports then went on the hunt and set up camp in the Marist quarter, being rewarded for a long stint on attack when midfielder Andrew Christie spun out of a tackle to score, the Karl conversion locking the game up with only minutes to go in the first half.
Then another long range penalty followed immediately by a long range try from a midfield scrum had Sports down 17-27 in a heartbeat at the break. Sports couldn’t control the second half restart and two rucks later Marist were in again.
Shell-shocked and wilting in the heat, Sports found themselves down 17-42 soon after that and looking for answers when they found another gear. Replacement loose forward Kieran Westlake took a quick tap and caught the Marist defence back pedalling to score, then soon after, a chip and chase from Karl and some nice interpassing had Michael-Tapu in for his second and all of a sudden the score was 29-42.
Another slip in concentration saw Marist stretch their lead again, which was answered straight away by Michael-Tapus third after Hooker Jack Munce split the defence wide open.
Marist had the final say however, finishing the game in style with another score on fulltime to seal the 20 point win.
There was plenty to like about the performance though, while score was not overly flattering. Sports matched Marist up front, even dominating at scrum time, the forwards putting in a mountain of work in the roasting conditions. The returning JP Liebenberg, along with Reynolds and fellow loosie Connor Loomans all getting a chance to shine on the back of the hard work done in tight. While Michael-Tapu starred, halfback Tairoa Crean and pivot Karl looked sharp controlling things and fullback Shauncy Waho was a constant threat.
Sports are on the road again next week, taking on University in Hamilton.