By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports will be kicking themselves for a flat opening to the second half that had them in a huge hole, before leaving a storming finish too late, going down 33-43 to Melville in Waikato Premier rugby.
Tries to Matthew Towers, Awa Morris, Matthew Vickers, Gordon Fullerton and Fetu Sasalu netted Sports a bonus point while Logan Karl added four conversions.
Like last week Sports were hot out of the blocks and midfielder Awa Morris burst through the defence and a deft grubber kick put skipper Matthew Towers in to score within five minutes of kickoff. Melville however hit back quickly to tie the game, then took the lead after 20 minutes 14-7.
It would get worse with Melville picking up another try to lead 21-7 as the first half came to a close before halfback Vavao Afemai broke up the centre of the field, drawing the last defender and putting Morris in for the try and a 21-14 halftime scoreline.
The second half is where it got ugly for Sports, where in the space of 10 minutes the deficit went from seven points to 26 points as Melville took advantage of some lacklustre play to the tune of three tries and a 40-14 lead.
Stung into action Sports started getting themselves back into the game, and were rewarded when flanker Cameron Moorby burst through the middle and found halfback Matthew Vickers backing up inside to pull the score back to 40-19.
The game went back and forwards and both sides enjoyed periods of momentum, before Sports went up a gear in the last 10 minutes and put the hammer down, Melville hanging on by a thread before prop Gordon Fullerton caught the defence napping down the short side and crossed untouched and with seven minutes left, the game was turning on its head.
Sports kept the heat on and found themselves hard on the attack again and were rewarded when No.8 Fetu Sasalu found some space down the blind side and was too strong, Karls conversion from out wide reducing the deficit to seven points with four minutes remaining.
A long range penalty goal from the visitors gave them a crucial ten point buffer in the dying seconds, while Sports just ran out of time and couldn’t complete what would have been an incredible comeback.
It was a rollercoaster of a game, and Sports got huge contributions this week from their bench, which lifted them to another level, replacement prop Mitchell Gardiner picking up the man of the match with a huge second half effort, stabilising a scrum under pressure and proving a force at ruck and maul time. Replacement flanker Cameron Moorby injected a real sense of urgency and tempo into the game to put the visitors on their heels, while replacement midfielder Herewini Hohepa looked right at home in his Premier debut match, showing the full range of skills and proving tough to defend in broken play.
MVP Points: 3 – Mitchell Gardiner. 2 – Cameron Moorby. 1 – Herewini Hohepa
Te Awamutu Sports Premier B still have a shot at the semis with two games to play, and will feel indifferent about a somewhat unflattering 5-26 loss against Melville. It was a tough, uncompromising game, with Melville chipping away to lead 12-0 deep in the second half before hooker Dylan Jeffries scored for Sports and pulled it back to 12-5 and set up a thrilling finish with eight minutes to play. Unfortunately Sports let the game get away from them in the last few minutes, conceding two tries to give a score line which is not really reflective of a closely competed game.
Sports go on the road for their last two games of the season, firstly to Cambridge to take on defending champions Hautapu, who will be smarting after their first loss in two seasons.