By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports had their hearts broken again, unable to hold the fast finishing Melville side in the closing stages, going down 41-43 in injury time in Waikato Premiership rugby.
A match that featured 13 tries, 84 points, end to end play was ultimately decided by a conversion on the games last play in the depths of injury time, re-opening the wounds from a similar finish against Hamilton Old Boys a few weeks earlier.
Still smarting from a high injury count, the hosts started with all guns blazing and had Melville on their heels, the forwards making inroads into the defensive line and were rewarded with early tries to lock Antonio Shalfoon and midfielder Andrew Christie to take an early 12-0 lead.
Melville showed how lethal they are on the counter attack pouncing on an error and taking it to the house in what would be a recurring, back and forward trend in the match.
Sports struck back though, with outstanding no.8 Kieran Westlake running a beautiful line into a hole, crossing over in the tackle to extend the lead to 19-7. Melville, not to be outdone, answered back with Declan O’Donnell skipping down the sideline to pull it back 19-12.
The roller coaster continued with winger Kyle Bradley extending the lead in the left corner, which again was answered and a thrilling first half closed with Sports up 24-17.
Sports struck first in the second half when entre Richie Kaisia pounced on a mistake and offloaded to winger Quelyst Michael-Tapu who ran untouched to score under the posts. Melville answered the call again to pull the score back to 31-24 before fullback Awa Morris potted a penalty to extend the lead to 10.
Sports seemingly struck the killer blow when flanker Fetu Sasalu grabbed an overthrown lineout and blasted his way through to score and a 41-24 lead with 20 minutes to go.
From here the superior depth and bench strength paid dividends for the visitors as Sports faded down the stretch under the weight of defence, two tries closing the gap to five points with 10 minutes to go.
Sports tackled and tackled in the closing stages as Melville threw everything at them, holding on and living on scraps of turnover ball, until three minutes into injury time Melville finally crossed 15 meters from the post and calmly slotted the conversion to take their first lead of the match and steal the victory.
Sports had top performers all over the park, Westlake and Sasalu outstanding with ball in hand and backed up by locks Gelestino Kiutau and Shalfoon in the tight. Veteran Waylon Tangohau came out of retirement again and controlled the backs nicely and midfielders Christie and Kaisia were strong on both attack and defence.