By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports showed a glimpse of what they are capable of in a scintillating opening 35 minutes, but were left wondering what might have been in a 14-38 loss to Melville in Waikato Premier rugby.
Sports shook off last weeks disappointments and had the visitors reeling early, the backs moving the ball with speed and precision while the forwards imposed their will on the breakdown, but a combination of missed chances, curious refereeing decisions and a horror 15 minute period either side of half time saw their 14-3 lead turn to a 14-31 deficit they couldn’t overcome.
Melville had no answer for Sports physicality and angled runners, midfielder Andrew Christie ghosting through the line to score in the opening minutes, converted by pivot Carwyn Penny for a 7-0 lead. Penny starred again as he scooped up a loose ball and ran 50 meters before what should have been a Sports 5m scrum under the posts was ruled to be a Melville scrum feed and the chance lost.
Penny was again creating as he jinked his way through the defense only to have the ball spilled off the last pass with an open line ahead. Another score to JP Liebenberg struck off after the officials couldn’t see the ball grounded.
Liebenberg would get his score back after some intense pressure on the Melville line found space around the ruck and a 14-3 lead.
As good as Sports were in the first 35 minutes though, they were equally bad before and after the half, leaking two tries either side of the break, falling off tackles they were earlier making compounded with simple errors saw their hard work fade, their 14-3 flipping to a 14-17 half time score, then after a flat start to the second, 14-31 in minutes.
Their defence stiffened after that but the damage had been done, the Melville bench seemingly lifting their side to a new level that Sports couldn’t match, errors and mistakes putting a stop to any potential scoring chances and a late score to the visitors put a bow on a disappointing second half and the 14-38 scoreline.
For Sports, their forwards again worked to a standstill against their bigger opponents, but more than matched them especially at scrum time. Kieran Westlake again ran himself to a standstill, backed up by fellow flankers Matthew Towers and Connor Loomans. Midfielder Tairoa Crean was again outstanding, his line speed and outstanding defence putting all sorts of pressure on his opponents. Penny looked sharp again at first-five, kicking the corners when needed and orchestrating the opening stanza blitz.
Sitting in eighth spot, Sports wrap up the first round with a visit to neighbours Otorohanga with a win guaranteeing their spot in the top eight.