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Cool Cooper slots clutch kick

Marist 31
Carterton 29

Hayden Cooper held his nerve and kicked a clutch penalty with time up on the clock to snatch a thrilling victory over two-time defending champions Carterton on Thursday night.

The young winger had already impressed during the game with two outstanding tries and a faultless goalkicking display when referee Alistair Payne awarded Marist a penalty 18m out on a slight angle after their pack smashed the opposition scrum.

Cooper was cool as a cucumber as he slotted the winning goal for a personal haul of 21 points and saluted the good band of supporters who had turned out on the chilly night.

“I’ve been waiting for a moment like that at this level in the three years I’ve been in here, so when we got that penalty, I was ready to take it and give it my best shot,” the modest winger said.

The penalty topped a superb night for Cooper, who, in addition to being faultless off the tee, scored two tries: one where he pulled off a well-timed intercept inside the Carterton 22 and crossed untouched and the second where he ran a beautiful line back on the angle to score under the posts, although he was quick to credit his teammates.

“It all comes down to the boys; they’re getting me in those spots, and I just do my bit and execute in scoring and getting my kicks over and making them count,” but he also admitted to preparing for intercepts, which paid off.

“I’ve been practising making those really hard decisions on the defensive side, especially on that outside, and then I was just lucky I got the read and scored that try.”

As well as Cooper’s efforts, there were some outstanding tries in the see-saw match between the two form teams which lived up to expectations with the lead changing hands seven times.

Carterton had the better of the first half and led 15–7 at the break; however, Marist was fortunate not to be further behind after the “Maroons” blew some prime try-scoring chances.

The game came alive in the second stanza with tries to the impressive young Marist second-five Willy Mataitai, who ran onto a superb pass to score under the posts, and then Cooper’s intercept, giving
the home side the lead.

A try to Carterton lock Malakai Biumaiwai after a scrappy lineout restored Carterton’s lead before Cooper crossed for his second.

A touch of brilliance from second-five Fiula Tameilau, who took a quick tap at halfway and ran through five or six defenders to score between the sticks, gave Carterton a 29–28 lead with 10 minutes left.

Marist looked to have blown their chances, having turned down two penalty attempts at goal, but their gamble paid off when a Carterton error gave them a scrum in a handy position, and the “green and white” eight sent the Carterton pack reeling back at a rate of knots and up stepped Cooper to seal the deal.

“We were really huffing and puffing, but we really gave it all for one another,” said Cooper, who is relishing his team’s run of successes.

“It’s real good; we’ve got a mixture of experience and youth, and there’s nowhere else I would rather be.”

Don’t be surprised if these two meet in the big dance on July 20.

Masterton Red Star 10
East Coast 24

“A welcome win with a makeshift team.”

That was how East Coast coach Guy Williams described Thursday night’s hard-fought win over the Masterton Red Star Rams.

After a scoreless first half at Colombo Road, when the Coasties spent long periods camped on the Rams’ line but could not convert their dominance, the visitors took control in the first 15 minutes of the second half and effectively put the game out of rAeach.

The Rams staged a comeback with two unconverted tries, but a converted try close to fulltime wrapped up a deserved win for the Coasties, who have had to rely on senior reserve players to field a team.

Williams singled out regular hooker George Parke, who played at No. 8, as having an outstanding game, while the return of Jack Wakeling gave much-needed direction and control at first-five.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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