Last Friday saw the culmination of a tough fought season to find out who our grand final champions were going to be. We were very fortunate to secure such a good venue in the Mangakahia Sports complex to host everybody.
The supporters were really vocal when the two 14s finalists ran out of the tunnel to begin their game. Portland Panthers v Hikurangi Stags was shaping up to be a great game. Hikurangi drew first blood and Latham Hutchinson-Walters was running riot with the Portland defence.
Hikurangi opened their scoring account first and then went on to dominate the first half with some nice touches out wide from Gavin Edwards in the centre and some solid defence from Charme Henry-Turner.
The Panthers must had some inspirational words from coach Riki Shelford as they scored early on in the piece. Richmond Patua made several barnstorming runs and he often took three or four defenders to bring him to ground. This allowed Manny Snooks and Aiden Blowers to work well together and really apply pressure.
Captain Riki Shelford (jnr) was solid on defence and attack and scored two critical tries which eventually secured the win for Portland. The final score was Portland (20), Hikurangi (14).
The second game saw the Otaika Eagles who finished first in the regular season, face the boys from the Valley in Otaua. Both teams were stacked with swords representatives. The heavens opened and made the track greasy, so ball security was always going to be an issue.
Otaika made use of several completed sets and eventually crossed the line. They were well organised with some nice plays off the back of captain Tahu Tawhiwhirangi who linked with Paul Turner to make for some exciting football. Markal Gibbons-Stevens and Ngatai Tongiavalu ate up a lot of meters to set up several close attempts at tries.
Both teams exchanged tries with the score locked at half time. The fullbacks were both tested under the high bomb and Aotea Parata from the Eagles had great hands as did Pene Stevens from Otaua.
Otaua started to gain momentum through a nice partnership from the hooker Bryan Johnson linking up with big Joseph Ngere and Xavier Johnson. Captain Fantastic Kingi Rakete-Tane through some individual brilliance was able to cut through the defence on two occasions to confirm the victory for Otaua.The Final score was Otaua Valleys (32), Otaika Eagles (28).
In the final game we saw the Boys from Northern Wairoa aka the Bulls face up to Marist Brothers. Both teams were slow to settle into a rhythm and there was a bit of ill-discipline that lead to a high penalty count early on.
The Marist outfit looked to be a bit better organised with some silky skills from captain/hooker James Witehera who pushed over from a couple of meters out. The Bulls forward’s were led strongly by Caleb Rusden and Kane Pomare was causing a disturbance on the fringes of the ruck.
The Marist outfit were up at half time and the Bulls must have received a spray because they came out firing with some big tackles which took a bit of the bite out of the Marist onslaught. Nathan Newton and Hori Nathan were in the end a lot more dominating than the Bulls forwards and made numerous busts which lead to a late game gain of momentum which gave Marist the title. The Final score was Marist (28), Bulls (16).