Ratana undefeated run to Tasman Tanning Senior title.

MATCH REPORT: 2020 Seniors Final – Ratana vs Celtic

By Jared Smith

The young men of the Pā have delivered an unbeaten Tasman Tanning Senior season for their rebuilding club and delighted Whanau as Harvey Round Motors Ratana pulled away from Ali Arc Logistics & DNA Kennels Marist Celtic on Saturday.

Ratana’s depth and strength in the forwards told as they withstood Celtic coming back at them throughout the match, in fact leading 15-12 after 50 minutes, to run out 29-20 winners – being buoyed by their singing supporters who made 200 voices sound like 600.

Marist vs Ratana Senior Rugby, at Cooks Garden. Whanganui Chronicle. (Lewis Gardener).

Right from the kickoff, Celtic made some nervous errors for Ratana to work into position, with fullback Brooklyn Herewini stepping close to the tryline, before their former Steelform Wanganui halfback and Player of the Day in Kane Tamou went for a classic sneak off the ruck to run behind the posts.

Matters soon got a little testy between the rivals, Celtic having only lost once and narrowly to Ratana this season, as Herewini was given a yellow card after an altercation at the ruck.

Looking to use their overlap and free up their teenaged outside backs, Celtic did some nice offloads through the midfield, and from in front of the posts, veteran first-five (and former Ratana coach) Steelie Koro did a punch pass for centre Michael Flood to put winger Ioane Hough-Aki over in the corner, with his fellow winger Rangi Kui making a great sideline conversion for 7-7.

11 Jamie Robertson. Marist vs Ratana Senior Rugby, at Cooks Garden. Whanganui Chronicle. (Lewis Gardener).

Ratana weren’t daunted, earning a penalty to kick down into the attacking corner, where despite being one back short they spread the ball for winger Jamie Robertson to bounce up from an uncompleted tackle and send his other winger Tex Seduadua forward rolling beside the corner flag, with centre Cody Hemi taking over the kicking but missing despite an extra attempt for an early charge.

Back to a full XV, it seemed Ratana would ride their lead into halftime, with Celtic making a handful of mistakes under pressure.

But working forward off penalties, the green-and-whites stabbed a grubber kick and Kui flashed through to dive on it for the equaliser – just striking the timber with his opposite sideline conversion.

Managing to steal three Ratana lineout throws, Celtic’s veteran forwards were hanging tough with their younger opposition, who looked to Hemi to break out with a couple of dangerous runs, before ill-discipline gave Kui two chances at penalty kicks – missing the longer range 52m attempt but making no mistake with the closer follow-up shortly afterwards.

Marist vs Ratana Senior Rugby, at Cooks Garden. Whanganui Chronicle. (Lewis Gardener).

Behind for the first time and going into the wind, Ratana’s front row responded as prop Tyson Tauri and hooker Shade Tuaine-Whanau imposed themselves, and then after the pack drove to the tryline from a lineout, Tamou went for another sneak and got the shunt from behind to get the ball down.

More hard Ratana carries and pressure on the back of Celtic’s scrum brought them back onto attack, where a grubber kick in-goal took a horror bounce for Kui and Hemi was right there to dive on it for 26-15 with 12 minutes left.

It seemed Celtic had fired all their shots, until replacement winger Kotahi Paranihi took the pass from skipper Maikara McDonnell off a tap kick on the 50m, then outstripped the cover defence and beat Hemi cold to score a 50m try in the corner with five minutes left.

However, Celtic were denied a grandstand finish, as an accidental offside from the spilled kickoff gave Herewini the chance to slot his fourth straight kick and with it, Ratana’s first ever Senior title.

Marist vs Ratana Senior Rugby, at Cooks Garden. Whanganui Chronicle. (Lewis Gardener).

“This morning we had a group chat, setting goals for ourselves,” said coach Leon Mason.

“Putting ourselves under pressure like this was the biggest goal, and how do we consume it, how do we control it?

“The boys did really well to keep to their set piece, and trust one another to have each other’s backs.

“To work hard against a good team like Marist, we knew we had to step up and today had to be the day.”

The title win was also a massive shot in the arm for the rebuilding club, who relegated themselves out of Premier after several fruitless seasons.

“We’ve done a lot of hard work throughout the management and the team moving forward this year,” said Mason.

11 Ioane Hough-Aki. Marist vs Ratana Senior Rugby, at Cooks Garden. Whanganui Chronicle. (Lewis Gardener).

“The biggest goal wasn’t to get the final, it was just to regroup, to pick the club back up again.

“Give most humble thanks to Steelie and the previous coaches that were there before me – they set the foundation, and had the same vision that we had this year.

“To get back in the final and bring our home crowd is a blessing.”

The loss would have been tough to take for Celtic’s older veterans, once again so close but so far from claiming the trophy, but they had given everything that coach Duane Brown had asked for.

“Proud of our brothers and our nephews, they had a lot of heart, and at the end of the day that’s what you got to want in the team.

“Heads up to Ratana – they came, they were physical, everything went well for them.”

The talents and speed of Kui, Hough-Aki, Paranihi and fullback Te Herureu Koro are obvious and Brown agreed they could form a nucleus for the Wanganui Marist club in coming years.

Marist vs Ratana Senior Rugby, at Cooks Garden. Whanganui Chronicle. (Lewis Gardener).

 “I hope so, it’s just about keeping them with us, and what we need to do as a club.

“There’s even boys after these ones here, in Cullinane [College], that I wouldn’t mind grabbing too, and I hope Ratana look after their young boys as well and keep them here.”

Ratana 29 (Kane Tamou 2, Tex Seduadua, Cody Hemi tries;  Brooklyn Herewini pen, 3 con) bt Marist Celtic 20 (Ioane Hough-Aki, Rangi Kui, Kotahi Paranihi tries; Kui pen, con). HT: 12-12.