By Justin Miezenbeek
Te Awamutu Sports brought the physicality to defending champions Hautapu in Cambridge on Saturday, but found themselves on the receiving end of the hosts lethal counter attack, playing better than the 12-43 scoreline suggests in Waikato Premier rugby.
Second half tries to Ishmail Shabazz and Shaun Rumbles with a Logan Karl conversion were reward for Sports endeavour but they couldn’t contain the speed and power Hautapu had out wide and were punished dearly on turnover ball.
An early penalty had Sports trailing 0-3 early, and were soon down 0-8 after Hautapu scored in the left corner, but Sports were contesting the breakdown and matching the physicality.
A slick interchange of passes in the Sports midfield had winger Shabazz through a hole only to be pulled down centimeters short of the line, Hautapu turning over and answering back with the first of three tries to winger Josh Gasgoine from their own line and a 0-15 lead at half time.
Gasgoine struck again straight after the break and soon again after to blow the score quickly out to 0-29 before Shabazz finished off a nice move down the left flank to pick up Sports first points, the Karl conversion bringing the score to 7-29.
An extended period of pressure proved too much as Hautapu extended their lead to 7-36, which was answered back by replacement hooker Rumbles who controlled the back of rolling maul to pick up Sports second try and pull the score back to 12-36.
A messy, niggly 25 minutes followed to close the game as both sides beat each other into submission with Sports finding themselves on the receiving end of the referees whistle, backing them up onto their line. The intense physicality and off the ball play from both sides resulted in a brutal, yet ugly closing period, with Sports holding strong on their line for an extended time before Hautapu eventually closed the game with a wide kick to score deep in injury time.
For Sports it was a score that probably didnt reflect the competitiveness of the match, with those lethal turnover counter attacks proving to be the big difference. Skipper Matthew Towers shone at the breakdown and around the field, as well the incisive run and pass to set up the Shabazz try, netting man of the match honors. Hooker Brad Van Der Heyden was at his brutal best in the breakdown in an extremely physical game as well as on point at lineout time.
MVP: 3 – Matthew Towers, 2 – Brad Van Der Heyden 1 – J’ndre Liebenberg.
Te Awamutu Sports Premier B also fell to their Hautapu counterparts 19-40, a loss that eliminates them from playoff contention. Hooker Andrew Muller starred with two tries in the second half, while winger Joshua Doig picked up a try in the first half while midfielder Karne Hesketh was a constant threat out wide.
Sports round up the shortened 2020 season with an away fixture against Hamilton Marist, hoping to finish on a high note a season that has plenty of positives threads to chase heading into season 2021