By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports completed a remarkable turnaround falling just short of upset win against a red hot Hamilton Marist side, 20-29 in Waikato Premier Rugby.
After the depths of last week’s loss, some soul searching during the week found the place Sports had lost and they put together one of their more complete performances of the season and bar a few mistakes at key times, could have netted a very different result.
They hit the ground running and had Marist struggling in the opening minutes, showing better control of the howling crosswind and forcing Marist into mistakes, and were rewarding five minutes in when prop Gordon Fullerton powered his way over in the heavy traffic around the ruck to open the scoring.
Sports kept the pedal down but were held out from extending their lead by a combination of some intense goal line defence and a little lack of polish in key moments, which were compounded when Marist struck back to take the lead in the latter stages of the first half.
Down 5-7 with the clock ticking on the second half, Sports found themselves on attack again, this time hitting paydirt when midfielder Andrew Christie hit a beautiful short line of pivot Carwyn Penny’s shoulder with flanker Fetu Sasalu the decoy, leaving the defenders grasping at air and Christie underneath the posts, taking a 12-7 lead into the half.
Marist struck early in the second to take the lead back and the goalkickers traded penalties to see the score 15-17 midway through the second half in favour of the visitors.
Marist struck again to stretch the lead to 24-15 with ten minutes left, but Sports came surging back when a costly mistake hot on attack saw Marist clear their line then win the ball back from the ensuing counter attack attempt, some quick thinking catching Sports short behind the line with a chip kick and Marist all but sealed the match with the score 29-15.
Sports however didn’t agree and surged back on attack, an attacking lineout drive splintering the Marist forward pack and hooker Wium Mostert collected the spoils, pulling the score back to nine points.
Sports threw everything into the final few minutes but the Marist defence held strong, sealing a hard fought win in a wonderful game of rugby.
Sports had top performers all over the field, but man of the match, No.8 Kieran Westlake stood out with another 80 minutes of hard running and defense, teaming with fellow loosie Fetu Sasalu as the primary ball carriers against the huge Marist pack. Midfielder Andrew Christie returned from injury and immediately showed his worth on both attack and defence, running nice lines and organising play.
Sports are at home again next week, hosting Hamilton Old Boys, looking to take this performance and build again and get their first win of the Premiership.