By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports wade through the wet and mud, grinding out a hard fought, yet hard earned 20-17 win in Waikato Premier Rugby.
Halfback Matthew Vickers and Fullback Awa Morris picked up the two Sports tries, with Pivot Logan Karl perfect from the tee in trying conditions, slotting two conversions and two penalties.
Days of heavy rain stopped right at kick off and sunshine bathed Campbell Park as the teams ran on the field, but the wet weather had left its mark, the heavy underfoot conditions soon turning the green grass brown.
The hosts had the better of the early exchanges, but Sports were the first to score, a Karl penalty putting them up 3-0. Morrinsville answered soon after with an attacking lineout and rolling maul netting their first score, the Adam Ratcliffe conversion taking the lead 7-3. A second Karl penalty pulled the lead back to one point.
With a lot of the game being played between the 22’s, the field suffered, but Sports first real real attacking chance paid dividends, a slick 8-9 move from No.8 Kieran Wesltake to Vickers putting him over untouched, the Karl conversion taking the lead back 13-7. Not to be outdone, Morrinsville rode a couple of penalties down the field and found themselves hard on the Sports line, picking up their second try of the game close to the ruck, the conversion taking the lead back 14-13.
In the closing stages of the first half, Ratcliffe hit a long range penalty to take a 17-13 lead into half time.
The second spell turned into a real grind as both sides played the game close, the conditions making ball handling tough, and it seemed just as Sports started to build some momentum, a handling error would stunt their gains and force them backwards.
This was until pivot Karl found two forwards in front of him and proved too quick, linking with Morris who cut infield, beat a desperate tackler to cross 15 meters from the post, Karl putting the icing on the cake with the conversion and the 20-17 lead.
The hosts threw everything they had in the closing stages, but Sports held tough, picking the vital turnover in injury time and safely clearing the ball to record their first win of the season.
It was a torrid encounter in the tight, and the injection of flanker Fetu Sasalu at half time proved to be a perfect tonic, his battering ram style of running bending the host defensive line and getting his side on the front foot, earning him man of the match honors. Pivot Logan Karl controlled the game well, while fullback Morris was secure, patrolling the back and was dangerous when injecting himself into the backline.
The Premier B side also picked up their first win for the season, with midfielder Mason Devcich slotting a late penalty to reverse an 8-10 halftime deficit into a 20-18 win. Tries to fullback Ben Mylchreest who finished off scintillating Hiriweni Hohepa break and winger Ishmail Shabazz, who burst through tacklers from a lineout and ran 30 meters to score an outstanding solo try.
Sports face a tough task in their first home fixture for the season, hosting Hamilton Old Boys at Albert Park.