Kaierau vs Ngamatapouri, July 18th 2020
By Jared Smith
It was an unfortunate but timely reminder for Tasman Tanning Premier’s initial table leaders that phase and execution still rule the day over speed and crash-bash.
The Grand Hotel Challenge Shield was in no danger of staying at the Ngamatapouri Hall as Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau claimed a monopoly on territory and quality possession to be scoring at a point-per-minute following halftime up in the Waitotara Valley on Saturday.
A shellshocked Settler’s Honey Ngamatapouri got to play some of their expansive style in the final quarter while the visitors ran on their bench players, but even then the hosts made too many handling errors in the 69-12 hammering.
Kaierau’s brains trust of fullback Ethan Robinson, alternating into the first-line on attack, and the veteran Ace Malo ran the game how they saw fit – with pinpoint right-to-left kicks into the corners moving their big Fijian opposition around, and then outstanding offloads at pace, with winger Karl Pascoe a primary beneficiary with superb finishing for a hat trick.
In reply, Ngamatapouri looked like a team trying to implement the structure new coach Danny Tamehana wants, but their kicking game consisted on aimless high balls up the centre of the pitch, just gifting possession back to the Shield holders.
Kaierau’s loose forward group of Cade Robinson, Woody Martin, Joe Edwards and replacement Dylan Bowater relished the up-tempo style with some strong carries and very good turnovers.
In the end, Ngamatapouri had to revert to type by attacking from deep in their half, after Kaierau subbed off their leading lights with some little concern for Ethan Robinson’s sternum and Edwards’ head.
Even without momentum, big Jim Seruwalu can still generate something from nothing, as he did on multiple busts through the middle of the park and a great angled run for the home side’s first try.
Winger Moses Tamata also did well to ground the ball in the corner, while Samu Kubunavanua covered everywhere from flanker to fullback.
Yet even with Malo and Robinson off the pitch, others stepped up as halfback Cameron Davies was deadly when attacking open spaces off the ruck, while centre Dillon Adrole and replacement winger CJ Stowers ran the outside defenders ragged.
While some of Kaierau’s structure went away at the back end of the match, coach Carl Gibson was delighted with the first 50 minutes, when a half century was raised.
“We want to play an expansive game and it takes fitness and it takes a full squad to do that, and they gave everything I asked right from the start
“To move the ball around, you’re going to move [big] bodies like that, and it just wore them down.
“We’ve got leaders in this team now, they’re really important and they’re stepping up.”
Ngamatapouri still put on the big hits when they could, and with Kaierau’s injured Shandon Scott and Kohlt Coveny already watching from the sideline, Gibson took the chance to substitute key players early to keep them in cotton wool.
“We want to play a physical game too, and that’s just part of it.
“We’ve got a big squad and we need a big squad – got to have them all up to the [Premier] ability and someone’s got to step up because it’s intense. It’s only 10 weeks.
“It’s going to be physical the whole way through.”
Ngamatapouri manager Gerald Pearce said they simply got outplayed by a well-balanced team.
“First half we just kicked it to them and they capitalised on what we shouldn’t have given them
“Halftime, we were that far behind the boys did well to get a couple of tries. The game was all over.
“The territory and hanging onto the ball, you can’t win without the ball. Kicked it away.”
Ngamatapouri’s Fijians are known for their confidence with ball in hand, but even that seemed to desert them as handling errors in their own 22m led to two of Kaierau’s late tries.
“Even when Samu come down there, all he had to do was pop that pass and we were in, but it didn’t happen that way.
“Toss of the coin never went our way.”
While Seruwalu looked dangerous early with a big fend-off and dash, Robinson soon had the ball and the time to use it – putting the home side back into their corners.
Claiming another clearance, Malo found Pascoe, who put on a fantastic step and cut to dash away into the corner, with Robinson raising the flags from the sideline.
A Cade Robinson charge brought Kaierau right back to the tryline, and from the recycle, Malo and Ethan Robinson combined to put winger Logan Henry in at the opposite corner.
The hits kept coming as after getting a series of penalties, Kaierau drove off lock Josh Lane from the lineout, and Davies spotted the gap to run short side and dot down untouched.
After Pascoe defused another futile Ngamatapouri bomb, Ethan Robinson spotted a half gap and glided through on the angled run to beat the cover to that same profitable left-hand corner.
Getting an attacking 5m scrum, Pascoe had a double as Edwards went off the back with Davies to create the overlap, and when a box kick inside Ngamatapouri’s 22m was charged down, first-five James Durston had a gift try under the posts approaching halftime.
Kaierau kept it up straight from the break as Lane forced a ruck turnover and then Malo, Pascoe, Cade Robinson and Davies put on a clinic of perfect offloads and support play for Malo to score in the far left corner.
Pascoe and Malo liked that so much they did it again – breaking out of their own half for Malo to dot down under the posts in his last act of the game, with a sore Ethan Robinson also departing after the conversion for 50-0.
Ngamatapouri managed to push a Kaierau lineout drive backwards, so the visitors spread wide and then back to midfield, with Davies again given too much room off the ruck to find a straight running Adrole to score.
Still dangerous, Seruwalu was finally given space to get up some steam and he angled through two diving tacklers and held off the third to go over beside the posts.
But hopes of a late run for a bonus point came unstuck when Seruwalu tried to run from his own 22m and a loose offload was collected by Kaierau reserve Tyrone Kemp to put Durston over beside the posts.
Outplayed, the home side didn’t stop trying things as Kubunavanua did a strong run into the attacking half, and then first-five Josaia Dawai beat a tackle and lofted a pass over defenders for winger Kuliniasi Ligaithiuhiuama, who fed his fellow winger Tamata to ground the ball in Pascoe’s tackle.
But Pasoce would have the last say as Davies probed from another attacking ruck and gave him plenty of space to dash through the cover defence for his hat trick.
Kaierau 69 (K Pascoe 3, A Malo 2, J Durston 2, L Henry, C Davies, E Robinson, D Adrole tries; E Robinson 5 con, J Durston 2 con) bt Ngamatapouri 12 (J Seruwalu, M Tamata tries; K Ligaithiuhiuama con). HT: 38-0.
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