Saturday Apr 26, 2014
When an under-strength Waverley Harvesting Border stepped off the bus at the Ratana Paa on Saturday, they had hoped to find the mild Dr Jekyll waiting for them, but instead, big bad Mr Hyde had come out to play.
In front of their home supporters for the first time in a fortnight and putting out their strongest lineup since then, Harvey Round Motors Ratana reversed their previous two weekends of scoreless defeats by powering over with four tries, three from unstoppable rolling mauls and then an incisive scrum dart from halfback Kane Tamou, on the way to a 25-19 victory.
Playing without key big men, like Kamipeli Latu and Kieran Hussey, while Ray Stark and Sam Madams remain on the injured reserve, the crusierweights in the Border forwards were shoved backwards by Ratana’s super heavyweights, led by tryscoring captain Vaan Rauhina and locks Kapene Paki and Kawaka Manuel.
Ratana reclaimed the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield they had surrendered only a fortnight ago against Taihape as the prize changed hands for the fourth time already in 2014.
While outmatched, Border never stopped searching for openings, although they were guilty of kicking away too much possession rather than chancing their arm inside their own half, especially late in the piece as Ratana’s tiring big men began to fade in customary fashion.
Down 25-11 after Tamou’s try entering the final quarter, they rallied with halfback Lindsay Horrocks scoring a brilliant individual try, while winger Sikele Ulukuta landed his third penalty.
Those two were Border’s go-to men on attack and cover defence, and while they weren’t flawless, who could be with that much work-rate.
Prop Jareth Hawea atoned for his first-half sinbinning for obstruction by scoring Border’s first try to keep them in touch just after the break, while first-five Te Rau Wirihana looked much more assured late in the game as Border began stringing phases together.
In a tense finish, Border No 8 John Laurie, flanker Sheamus Murphy and Horrocks all had a close crack at the line, before calm Ratana second-five Vance Pereka snatched the intercept and booted his team clear of danger.
Ratana coach Johno Kaa was delighted to see the physicality return to his squad’s play after the disappointment against Taihape and Pirates.
“Really thrilled. Our game-plan was to put our big pack on and bust them through the forwards.
“Being at home, that’s a 10-point advantage right there, and we had that by halftime.
“Everyone in Wanganui knows Ratana will drive all day if we can – it’s one thing knowing it, but another one stopping it.”
Border coach Ross Williams was philosophical about the loss, which showed clearly that Border need some emergency strategies for games where they have been unable to impose their own will through key stages.
“Missing four from the pack didn’t help us,” Williams said.
“We won’t be down about it.
“It’s a season defining game. We’ve been winning ugly so it’s nice to lose one ugly and work hard from here.”
Border realised what kind of day they were in for when Rauhina ran over flanker Liam Richardson in the first of a series of big busts by himself and propping partner Kereti Tamou, while Border lock Jack Hodge also came to the sideline to get his bloody forehead strapped up.
Having to make a lot of tackles, the visitors still held Ratana until the 26th minute, when Rauhina marshalled his pack to lead him on a 20m drive from the lineout to score.
Border replied immediately through Ulukuta’s boot, then Ratana countered through a Kane Tamou penalty, the halfback being the only successful one of three kickers his team would use.
Hawea being binned by referee Ben Lourie compounded Border’s lack of weight up front and Ratana swooped with Paki scoring off another continuous maul.
Ulukuta closed the gap right on halftime, then the teams traded tries as Ratana hooker Dylan Marshall took his turn to be driven over by his mates, before Hawea got one back after a series of phases following Ratana spilling the kickoff.
It seemed Ratana reserve forward Charlie Mete had scored off a brilliant Tamou flick pass, but Lourie called it back for a 5m scrum so the Ratana halfback just dashed under the posts himself.
But Border would not lie down as Horrocks forced his way through a gap and stepped the cover tackles to roll himself over the line.
After another Ulukuta penalty, Horrocks and centre Sailosi Naqiso threw the ball everywhere in the dying minutes as Border raided Ratana’s line, before Pereka cleared the decks and the Ratana pack kept Border trapped in their own 22m, forcing the clearing kick before winning the final lineout to hang on at the finish.
Grand Hotel Challenge Shield Harvey Round Motors Ratana: 25 (Vaan Rauhina, Kapene Paki, Dylan Marshall, Kane Tamou tries, Tamou pen, con) bt Waverley Harvesting Border: 19 (Jareth Hawea, Lindsay Horrocks tries, Sikele Ulukuta 3 pen). HT: 13-6.