UTIKU Old Boys can handle the tough stuff in their pack but have a glass jaw susceptible to left hooks.
Waverley Harvesting Border’s outside backs ran riot down the exposed left-hand touchline in a free-flowing 66-28 hammering at Memorial Park on Saturday.
A high injury toll with props and controversy after a falling out with their star outside back Samu Kubunavanua left the former Top 4 team brittle, and despite a call by coach Gavin Thompson to keep their minds focused, Utiku dropped off cover tackle after cover tackle to let Border waltz over for three tries in the opening quarter. From there the result was never in doubt.
Border centre Poasa Waqanibau was perpetual motion with four tries, while winger Anaru Haerewa was the early recipient of Utiku’s weak defence with a double inside 10 minutes.
Finding it perhaps too easy, the visitors forgot much of their structure as Utiku’s remaining Fijian powerhouses Michael Nabuliwaqa and Malakai Volou sparked a revival, smashing through poor tackling to close the margin to 24-14 as the rain came down.
However, Border, Waqanibau in particular, swooped on any fumbles or loose ball in the second half to rattle off another three quick tries. Still in it for a bonus point, Utiku never quit trying and would get two more seven-pointers, although at the expense of conceding further tries as Border would hack the ball ahead to open pastures.
On a day when plenty of defenders got bumped off or palmed away, Border No8 Kieran Hussey and lock Sam Madams showed how it’s done with some good full-body hits.
Their team still had concerns. First five Jack Lupton came off early with his hip and groin injury, though they lost little in the goal kicking department as flanker Sikeli Ulukuta was striking them well, getting six from six.
Utiku’s first five, Ricky Alabaster, also had a perfect kicking record, while all three Utiku loose forwards dotted down.
Centre Brett Illston had tried to gut through a hamstring injury, but that was ill advised against the rampant Waqanibau.
Border coach Ross Williams thought it more productive for the team to be their own critics. “We won’t read much into it. We’ve got a fair few work-ons,” he said.
“The start probably hurt us. It’s just really hard to keep structure.”
For Utiku though, the story is the departure of Kubunavanua, three quarters of the way through their Tasman Tanning Premier campaign.
It is understood the fullback/winger left the ground the previous week after being subbed off against Harvey Round Motors Ratana, and on Friday the WRFU received a transfer request, to Integrity Motors Pirates.
“Utiku obviously weren’t happy when they heard about that,” said WRFU club liaison officer Paul Kenny.
Kubunavanua was on stand down on Saturday and Kenny said there was a dispute over what kind of agreement the speedster had made with Utiku after they arranged for him to come over from Fiji last year.
“Pirates have to sort it out. It hasn’t been cleared by the union yet.”
Much of Thompson’s comments on the situation were not suitable for print. “The club looked after him and that’s what he does. No loyalty. The union should not allow [a transfer],” he said.
“[Today we] played well in patches and we just can’t keep it up.”
Utiku were staring down the barrel early as Border fullback Fraser Middleton ran an excellent line to commit the remaining cover before twisting back to put Haerewa over untouched. They then went straight from the kickoff with Waqanibau running to a yawning gap and feeding Haerewa, who outstripped some weak diving tackles to run 65m.
Ulukuta also went wide and found second five Renato Tikoilosolomone, who slashed through tackles on his run back to the posts.
Finally on attack, Utiku stole a lineout and following a Volou burst, Nabuliwaqa beat two defenders to cross and jog under the sticks.
But Border simply spun wide again as Haerewa dashed to the corner flag and threw the inside ball for reserve James Forsyth to secure the four-try bonus point.
Volou and Nabuliwaqa then dealt the ball between them as they shrugged off the midfield defence and fed flanker Matt Crawford to close the gap to 10.
But Waqanibau from the standing start ran through his markers and then everyone else to send his team to 31-14 on halftime.
Utiku’s woes continued as Border lock Andrew Retallick grounded the ball under the posts from a pile-up on the line, then Middleton kicked ahead off a Waqanibau burst and the big centre followed up to collect the ball and bounce off his tackler in the same movement for 45-14.
He then raised a hat-trick by lurking for the clean intercept and free joyride back to the posts.
Hussey tiptoed down the blindside sideline to send the score to 59-14.
Desperate for any consolation, Alabaster swooped through off Nabuliwaqa’s challenge in the air and scored, before Border hacked another spilled ball ahead and Waqanibau found no one ahead of him other than the familiar goalposts.
To their credit, Utiku stayed with it and after sustained build-up in the pack, Volou fed lock Richard Minty to cross untouched in the shadow of full time.
Border 66 (Poasa Waqanibau 4, Anaru Haerewa 2, Renato Tikoilosolomone, James Forsyth, Andrew Retallick, Kieran Hussey tries, Sikeli Ulukuta 6 con, Jack Lupton 2 con) bt Utiku OB 28 (Richard Minty, Michael Nabuliwaqa, Matt Crawford, Mark Logan tries, Ricky Alabaster 4 con). HT: 31-14.
By Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle