Grant brings with him a vast array of experience with him as he has had stints in the central North Island and in the Auckland competitions. As an Association, we are very fortunate to have someone in the North who brings so much experience and is willing to help other officials in the game.
Wheeru, resides in Kaikohe and has been an official of the game for a number of years. His help in the Bay of Islands competition has been invaluable and his help and experience as a touchy will go a long way to keep control of future games that he will officiate in.
The Northern Swords almost created the biggest upset in the history of the NZRL National Premiership on Saturday at Lindvart Park, in Kaikohe, as they led 28 – 24 with less than a minute left on the clock. The Swords were deep into the Orcas half on attack when on 5th and final tackle their attempted drop goal got charged down. Orca winger, Patrick Ahnau was first on the scene from the charge down toeing it ahead to commence a footrace with the Swords covering defence. He was fortunate that the ball popped up cleanly into his hands 5 metres away from the try line to score under the posts as the Swords defence tried desperately to hold him up. Orca’s standoff, Bronson Marino, calmly slotted the 2 points to snatch victory 30 – 28.
In the Swords 5 years in the competition, this was by far their best ever performance. Wellington are a force in this competition, coming into the game with a record of 1 draw, 1 win and a loss. Their draw was against the might of the Akarana Falcons. But it was the Swords who led and controlled the game for all but the final minute. The Swords were the first on the scoreboard when barnstorming Prop Eli George smashed his way over the try line in the opening 5 minutes. The opening try installing a sense of self-belief in Jon Renes’ troop of young guns.
Going into half time with a 14 – 8 lead the expectation of the healthy crowd was that Wellington would come out in the second half and dominate, but when inspirational half, Kyle Hool, dazzled everyone with a scintillating 40 metre try to take the Swords to a 20 – 8 the crowd and the Young Swords lifted to another level. The second half was of a very high standard with both teams lifting their intensity in the collision.
When Penrith bound Caleb Aekins, playing in his debut Swords Premiers game, created something from broken play and outpaced the Orcas defence from 60 metres out to take a 28 – 14 lead with 15 minutes left on the clock, it looked like the unlikely would happen and a major upset was on the cards.
However, Wellington then upped their level and started running with conviction exposing a tiring Swords outfit. Firstly, winger David Saumolia, squeezed his way over the try line in the far corner with a classic NRL wingers try, dotting the ball down as he was bundled into touch, this act inspired his team mates. From the kick off the Orcas marched 80 metres for Joseph Oti to score on the opposite flank. The Swords found another level again and looked as if they were going to shut out the game until the bounce of the ball went Patrick Ahnau’s way.
The Swords young team should take nothing but positive from the game, their defence line worked solidly together for the entire 80 minutes and they played out their sets with patience and control. 18 year old Caleb Aekins, playing at Centre, was outstanding with the ball in hand and his cool temperament on defence ensured a solid edge defence for the Swords. Another two of the Swords 18 year olds Stevie Ray Haenga-Albert and Kawana Marsden also had standout performances. Stevie Ray, playing at hooker, was solid defensively in the middle of the ruck and made a number of confident darts from dummy half. Kawana, playing at Prop, rattled the big Orcas time after time on defence and with the ball in hand. Unfortunately for the Swords he played no part in the last 40 minutes after he suffered a wrist injury.
The Sword pack looked solid, with Eli George and Jordan Hool having big games. The halves pairing of Brodie Palmer and Kylie Hool looked slick giving plenty of space and time to outside backs Anaru Thompson and Jayden Bentley-Hape who both had great games.
With Coach Jon Renes building a positive culture, the Swords will travel down to Rotorua to take on the high flying Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions this Saturday. The Stallions have won three out of four in the competition with their only defeat to top of the table the Canterbury Bulls. They defeated Akarana in the weekend 28 – 26.
Wellington Orcas 30 (Axton Daniels, David Saumolia, Ulai Oti, Joseph Oti, Patrick Ahnau & Michael O’Brien tries; Bronson Marino 3 goals) Northern Swords 28 (Israel Tahere, Caleb Aekins, Anaru Thompson, Daniel Fulop, Kyle Hool & Eli George tries; Fulop 2 goals); HT: 8-14
Click here to view a selection of photographs from the game.