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Fijian flair wins the day

 

Carterton celebrate their championship victory. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY
CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]
Carterton 32
Marist 24

Flying Fijian Aseri Waqa was the star of the show for Carterton as the Maroon’s ended a 12-year drought with victory in a weird final at Trust House Memorial Park on Saturday.

Waqa made up for some handling jitters and hesitancy with two brilliant tries in the final quarter, including a solo 80m effort. He also had a hand in the match sealing try with time almost up.

The first came when a wayward Marist kick was fielded near the sideline by Carterton replacement winger Carlos Rimene, who passed infield to halfback Daryl Pickering, who fed Waqa inside his 22.

The fleet-footed fullback had plenty of space and put his foot on the throttle, outstripping the flailing Marist defenders to give Carterton a 20-17 lead with 20 minutes to play.

In a game of ever-changing fortunes, Waqa then played a big part in Marist regaining the lead. He hesitated in clearing up a kick from first-five Pua Tafa that bobbled in the corner before a Marist player won the race to the ball and it bounced in goal for replacement second-five Miki Te Whare to score and give James Goodger an easy conversion and Marist a 24-20 lead.

Waqa couldn’t stay out of the game though, and five minutes later he wrested the lead back for Carterton when he ran on to a beautiful inside ball from flanker Tupou Lea’aemanu and was untouched in scoring by the posts. Sam Morison’s conversion gave the Maroons a 27-24 lead with 12 minutes to play.

The Carterton forwards looked to keep the ball tight and close out the match and had the better of possession and field position in the latter stages.

A scrum on the 22m set the platform for the final try. No. 8 Jack Loader ran from the base and passed to veteran Inia Katia, who found Waqa. His inside pass sent winger Fiula Tameilau over in the corner setting off wild celebrations among the Carterton players.

If Waqa’s scintillating efforts weren’t enough to satisfy the good-sized crowd, the two tries to exciting young Marist centre Charles Mataitai set the game alight after an error-ridden start when the biggest cheer came for a streaker who ran the length of the field before making his getaway.

Mataitai’s first try came when Tafa put him into space on his own 10m line, and the big powerful centre did the rest pushing off two Carterton defenders and coasting in for an astonishing five-pointer. The second came when he sidestepped four defenders from 40m to score under the posts and give Marist a 17-15 lead after 51 minutes.

Earlier second-five Suitaka Toamutu gave the Maroons the lead with a try in the corner after five minutes, followed by a Morison penalty.

Marist’s cause wasn’t helped late in the first half when they were reduced to 13 men with two players in the sin bin — veteran lock Cory Reid for repeat infringements, and winger Ryan Tian Lyndique for a deliberate knockdown.

Carterton made them pay with a try to Katia under the posts and a 15-10 halftime lead.

The Maroons surprisingly had the better of the scrum, often having the Marist heading backwards, while the lineouts were evenly contested between veterans Lachie McFadzean for Carterton and Goodger for Marist.

Carterton coach Neil Rodger felt his side’s effort in the last quarter was crucial.

“That last 15-20 minutes we gained some field position and that probably made the difference in the end, and it turned the tide a little bit when Aseri scored that try,” Rodger said.

“Dominating the scrum gave us a really good platform. We got more dominance at the end when Tupou went back into prop from playing flanker, and the lineout went pretty good against a bloody good lineout that Marist have got.”

Rodger said veterans such as locks Mike Kloeg and McFadzean, and hooker Hone Vella put in massive shifts in the engine room, and Katia was outstanding in the backs.

“It’s really gratifying to see the good bunch of young guys and although we’ve got a couple of older guys, we’re a pretty young team.’

Although there were six lead changes and five brilliant tries to keep the spectators on the edge of their seats, there were too many basic handling errors, not helped by the slippery conditions, to say the final was a classic.

Hodder-Steffert Cup
East Coast finished the season on high, thrashing Greytown 48-10 to add the trophy to the Lane Penn Trophy for winning the Town and Country series.

Ryan Cup
A strong second half saw Tuhirangi pull away to win the senior reserve championship 34-6 over Marist.

President’s Cup
East Coast completed a double for the club beating Greytown-Carterton 55-38 after the scores locked together at 38-38 at fulltime.

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