By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports came crashing back to reality, being put to the sword by unbeaten Hautapu in a 14-73 loss in Waikato Premiership rugby.
Confidence was high after pushing Hamilton Marist and Hamilton Old Boys to their limits, but were exposed to a class above everyone this year, Hautapu running in 11 tries in a bruising, yet electric display.
With injuries already decimating the backline, Sports were dealt a cruel blow with winger Awa Morris lost inside the first ten minutes to a head knock, followed by the loss of returning pivot Carwyn Penny not long after, compounding an early 0-19 deficit.
Sports finally got some consistent possession and their patience paid off when back to back penalties had the hosts backpedalling and some quick thinking from halfback Dan Babos caught them on their heels and he scythed through for Sports first points.
Stung, Hautapu struck right back, bullying their way to three more tries to round out a first half that they dominated, but Sports were showing periods of control.
The second spell saw Sports show signs of parity, even control but each time they got a sniff of points, Hautapu were on hand to effect the vital turnover, in particular when prop Gordon Fullerton took a nice short ball into a hole and was pulled down a meter from the line, only to be swarmed by the defence.
Down 7-73 with only moments to go, halfback Dan Babos snuffed out a blind side movement after an intense period of pressure and intercepted the pass, running 80 meters back the other way to pick up his, and his teams second try of the game and conclude a brutal 80 minutes of rugby.
While the score suggests not a lot to take away from the game, Sports showed plenty of guts and never gave in, even under extreme adversity, the likes of which saw winger Fraser Bayly play 80 minutes for the B side in the opening game, then have to back up with another 75 minutes in the Premier game and young Ahumai Edwards, who at 17 years old was dropped into the heat of the fire after and showed the occasion didn’t overcome him.
Halfback Dan Babos picked up man of the match honors for his two tries and control around the ruck in the face of relentless pressure while centre Tairoa Crean put on a huge defensive display in the face of a brutal Hautapu side. In the forwards Fetu Sasalu showed no regard for his body, throwing himself into some huge physical collisions and the front row of Fullerton, Tony Pellow and Daniel McGillivray anchored a solid scrum.
Te Awamutu Premier B put together an impressive first half to sit 3-3 at the break, but ultimately faded in the second to fall 8-46 at the final whistle.
The task doesn’t get any easier next week, with Sports travelling to Otorohanga for the second time of the year in what history has shown to be a tough and bruising encounter.