NorthTec Adam Blair XIII v Warriors Development – 2014 Season Opener
Finals football is a completely different beast, what happens during the normal season is yesterday’s fish and chip papers. It all comes down to who wants it the most on the day, who can adjust to the pressure cauldron that is finals football. On Saturday, at Toll Stadium, form was chucked out the window as Minor Premiers the Takahiwai Warriors were bundled out of the RLN MultiKai Cooker Premiership Major Semi Finals by a invigorated Otangarei Knights 28 – 22.
The game was an 80 minute thriller that could have gone either way at any moment. Both teams struggled to get into the rhythm as they both struggled with Finals jitters, as possession was regularly turned over with unforced errors. It was Otangarei who got the first points with Bryce Rauahi dotting down in the corner, finishing off a sweeping Otangarei back line play in the 5th minute. For the next 20 minutes the game was a classic arm wrestle, played in the middle third of the park. It took the individual brilliance of standout centre Ross McFarlane, from Takahiwai, to break the scoring drought as he stepped, fended and weaved his way to the try line from 20 metres out. With Joel Freeman converting, Takahiwai looked to have found their stride taking a 6 – 4 lead.
The game looked like it could slip out of Otangarei’s hands, as continued pressure from Takaiwai saw not one but two, Otangarei players sent to the Sin Bin within the space of 4 four minutes, for infringements around the ruck. However as opposed to demoralising the Knights, it spurred them into action, as first Herewini Edmonds scored, then on the 38th minute, Dane Tito showed a flash of brilliance as he received the ball 10 metres out from the Warriors try line. With no room to move, he stepped inside his opposite winger, then stepped around the covering full back to score in the corner and for the Knights to take a 14 – 6 lead into half time.
The start of the second half looked as if the Warriors were finally hitting their straps as they scored on back to back sets in the 3rd and 5th minute. Firstly, Rikki Tarau leapt into the air, in a classic NRL 5th tackle kick into to the corner, to leap and gather to score. Then on the next set, as the Warriors marched down the field making easy yards, Joel Freeman put a grubber kick through from 10 out, which he looked certain to re-gather and he was tackled without the ball. For the second week in a row, a penalty a try was awarded and Takahiwai took the lead 16 – 14.
However, Otangarei showed the most composure and ground down the Warriors and made the most of their chances. Buddy Grey found the corner as leapt through the air and somehow managed to dot the ball down in the corner to go 18 – 14 up. Then after 15 minutes, second spell, Zion Rota, who caused havoc to the Warriors right edge all day, bust through to score on the 27th minute to go 26 – 16 up. The Knights then secured the victory on the 34th minute converting a penalty to go 28 – 16. The Warriors had one last sniff as they scored on the 38th minute 28 – 22 to the Knights final score.
The Knights are the big improvers of 2014 and thoroughly deserved the right to contest the 2014 RLN Multikai Cooker Premiership final. Standing in their way will be the Hikurangi Stags. The Stags, who will be going for a record 4 titles in a row, defeated the Hokianga Pioneers 38 – 10. The score didn’t reflect the intensity or the closeness of the game, as the Stags scored three tries in the final 6 minutes of play.
The final 40 minutes of the game was played with 11 players per team, as both teams had two players sent off when a fight erupted 2 minutes before half time, in an event that threatened to sour the day’s football. However, credit to both teams, as they played the second half of football in great spirits.
In other semi final action, the 15s Grade, Otaua beat the Northern Wairoa Bulls 26 – 20 in a thrilling match that saw the Bulls almost come back from 26 – 6 down, to snatch the win. Otaua will face Muriwhenua as Muriwhenua defeated the Hikurangi Stags 36 – 4.
For the 18s – Otaika faced Marist in a dress rehearsal for next weekend’s final. The competition did not have semi-finals, due to the top two, qualifying for the finals. Both Otaika and Marist, guaranteed to finish 1st and 2nd , had to play each other in the last round of pool play. It was Otaika who took moral victory 38 – 10. However as we saw with Otangarei and Takahiwai, you cannot take anything for granted!
RLN MutliKai Cooker Grand Final Action Saturday August 9th at Toll Stadium
12.00pm 15s: Muriwhenua v Otaua Valleys
1.30pm 18s: Marist Brothers v Otaika Eagles
3.00pm Premiers: Hikurangi Stags v Otangarei Knights
For full range of photographs, go to our Facebook page.