By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports were close, but not quite close enough, falling 25-31 to a tough and clinical Morrinsville side at Albert Park in Waikato Premier Rugby.
Sports will rue several costly mistakes, and scoring their tries in the corners, while Morrinsville scored theirs beside the posts. Sports had opportunities, and despite tying the game twice and trailing by two points in the closing stages, could never land the killer blow.
Morrinsville made all the play in the first half, starving Sports of the ball and playing controlled rugby, wearing down the defence and were rewarded with a try after the forwards earnt the overlap.
Playing defence for the first 20 minutes, Sports would bide their time and a stray clearing kick sparked electric fullback Shauncy Waho into action, whose footwork in broken play was too much to handle, drawing the last man to put winger Clark Towers in the corner.
The visitors again went back to controlled rugby and extended their lead to 17-5 as the curtain drew on the first half, but couldn’t contain the Sports backs, winger Queyst Michael-Tapu crossing in the right corner on the back of an all out assault from the forwards.
Down 10-17 at the break, Sports were not too unhappy after only working with scraps and came out firing after the break, halfback Vavao Afemai catching the defense short down a big blind side to cross in the corner again, pivot Logan Karl slotting the goal to tie the scores.
Morrinsville sprung back into life, picking up another score to take back the lead 24-17, which was answered again by Sports, when skipper Matthew Towers sliced through a hole to score in the corner again.
Down 22-25 Sports found themselves in trouble, down to 14 men and Morrinsville punished them, all but securing the game with another game and a 31-22 lead. Sports threw everything they had but eventually ran out of time, and a late penalty goal from Karl to finish the game secured a hard earned second bonus point so they at least picked up two bonus points for their efforts.
It was a game that was as brutal in close as it was beautiful out wide, both sides playing with speed and width, in particular for Sports fullback Shauncy Waho was dynamic and almost untouchable with ball in hand. Centre Tairoa Crean picked up man of the match for his his constant presence on defence and strong work on attack. Skipper Matthew Towers got through an incredible amount of work in the forwards and effected some vital turnovers.
Sports have a tough, yet vitally important road trip ahead, taking on Taupiri, a win going a long way to positioning for the second round.