CRAY COASTERS WIN MARLBOROUGH DIV 2 BATTLE ROYAL
Friday July 24 2015
Whale Watch Kaikoura claimed back-to-back Marlborough division two rugby titles at Lansdowne Park on Saturday, but they were made to fight every step of the way by an opponent that never gave up.
Scott Construction Harlequins may have lost 13-10 but won plenty of admirers for the way they battled on, despite losing a handful of players to injury.
However the day, and the trophy, belonged to the Cray Coasters, who scored the first points and were never headed. Their individual heroes were halfback Chris Young, who scored a decisive try in the 67th minute, and first five-eighth Myles Hamilton who kicked their goals and guided them around the park astutely.
Cheered on by a large and vocal croup of supporters, Kaikoura dominated the set pieces, using their hard-working pack to chew off metres through lineout drives and pressurise Harlequins’ scrum ball. To the fore were the hard-working loose forward trio of Amoraki Cowan, Dwayne Timms and Zane Gilroy. Their defensive work was outstanding and their ball-carrying decisive.
A scrappy first half saw the scores locked at 3-3. Quins’ outstanding lock Lee Mason, who scored all his team’s points, matched an early Hamilton penalty as the sides struggled to put phases together on the slippery surface.
The second 40 saw both sides produce more cohesive attack and the points finally came.
Young’s try, created when he quickly tapped the ball and ran through a retreating defence after a penalty 20m out, and Hamilton’s conversion, gave Kaikoura an 11-3 lead with just 13 minutes remaining, but Harlequins weren’t lying down. First five Richie Harris made a break and, when the Cray Coasters were penalised close to their line, Mason took a quick tap and barrelled over. He converted his effort from wide out to reduce the margin to three, setting up a thrilling final two minutes. Quins mounted attack after attack, but Kaikoura were equal to the challenge, their finals experience coming to the fore. However it was only when they were awarded a penalty on halfway, and Hamilton could slam the ball into the west stand, that they could begin to celebrate.
It became a war of attrition for the Quins, whose number eight Tukia Fotu was stretchered off after just two minutes with concussion. They also lost midfielder Craig Stringer, loosie Andy Tusani and replacement Phil Steel to various injuries, throwing their plans awry. Coach Peter Watson was gracious in defeat. “That game could have gone either way. It came down to who wanted it the most and I think Kaikoura did. They put in some amazing tackles and we lost crucial players early on … I think it would have been a different story if we held those key players but it wasn’t to be today.”
Apart from the talismanic Mason and Harris, who guided the side around the park well, Quins got good value out of midfielders Stringer and Pela Kaloni, plus wingers Misi Filihia and Junior Sekai. Up front frontrower Koi Kula, loosies Nesi Kula and Tusani, plus replacement number eight Joe Cooke, toiled hard.
Kaikoura veteran Phil Guthrie celebrated his last game for the club with his usual solid performance, alongside hard-working frontrowers Kauahi Ngapora, Richard Hill and Joel Laugeson.
Fullback Jeremy Taylor and replacement winger Fergus Hislop caught the eye out wide while centre Stuart Giles proved elusive.
Kaikoura coach Colin Timms was full of praise for their opponents. “They are deserving finalists, they didn’t let us settle, just kept coming.
“In the second half, once our forwards settled down, we were able to pin them in the corners. That’s what we tried to do … and it worked. It’s a new team this year … they’ve done really well to get up there.”
The long-standing coach had a final word for Guthrie, who has represented the club for 30 years. “He’s a real stalwart of the club. I wish everyone played like he did … he’s had his ups and downs but he’s still there every weekend. I’m happy for him to go out with a win, he deserves it.”
Scores: Kaikoura 13 (Chris Young try, Myles Hamilton 2 pen, con) Harlequins 10 (Lee Mason try, pen, con). Ht 3-3