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Taihape triumphant with blowout of Border

Is it possible?

Is it possible to improve on perfection?

  • Fee ‘the kid’ Herod (Leonardo DiCaprio), The Quick And The Dead (1995)

By Jared Smith

What appeared likely a hard afternoon at the office turned into a nightmare for Tasman Tanning Premier’s two-time defending champions, as their great rival blew them off Memorial Park on Saturday.

Never has the seven year East vs West battle for WRFU supremacy had a result this one-sided, as a ruthless Byford’s Readimix Taihape started strong, finished strong, and dominated everything in between for a 77-7 blowout of Waverley Harvesting Border.

Showing up wanting to just make it through the match to get into their bye week and prepare for the second round, Border had reinforced from their depleted lineup the previous week as playmakers Craig Clare and Lindsay Horrocks returned, although with other absences they stood at fullback and centre respectively.

It was good to see 2021 Steelform Whanganui loose forward Kieran Hussey back, while the likes of Nick Harding and Semi Vodosese were on the bench in their injury comebacks.

But being back on deck and looking settled are two different things.

With simple kick clearances missing touch, costly turnovers at ruck time, tighthead scrums lost and simply not adjusting to Taihape’s attack patterns, Border were all at sea – giving up two tries inside the first 10 minutes and from there the home side never looked back.

When Taihape destroyed Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist 81-14 last season, that could somewhat be understood with Marist’s young players not yet conditioned to harsh reality of the intimidating journey to play the 2019 champions at their domain – Marist took their beating like men and came back to make the 2021 semifinals.

But Border knew better; you must contest hard at the breakdown because you cannot give the likes of first-five Dane Whale and fullback Tyler Rogers-Holden the opportunity to take over the match.

Playing behind a dominant pack, Whale and Rogers-Holden harnessed the conditions expertly, knowing Memorial Park’s wind and pitch like the back of their hands, to pin Border in their half.

Bone-rattling tackles and speed off the mark with ball in hand saw Taihape playing at their absolute zenith – a delight for coach Tom Wells and his staff.

A parochial South Taranaki fan might want to point out Taihape have picked up a handful of Whanganui representative players to bolster their line-up.

But two of their best in Peter-Travis Hay-Horton and Jamie Hughes came off the bench and were not even required until late in the piece, by which time Taihape had already raised a previously unthinkable half century.

And it was Taihape’s promising younger players who have not yet made Heartland level who shined brightest.

Border just could not get a read on elusive winger Tiari Mumby, who sprinted or slipped his way through for a hat-trick of tries, while Whale hit centre Tim Goodwin with long balls and the former Kaierau understudy cut loose through a brittle defensive line – scoring and setting up multiple five-pointers.

Flanker Lennox Shanks, fired up by his roaring bench, was outstanding in cover defence and on the carry, while prop Issac Roth made a big impact.

Former Ruapehu front rowers Roman Tutauha and Gabriel Hakaraia continued their try-scoring ways, as Taihape made a mess for Border’s scrum in a complete dominance of the set-piece.

“We just hit our straps today, we really did. Could have been down 7-0 in the first 20 seconds with a charge down, but other than that the first half was near-on flawless,” said a grinning Wells.

“You got to give the boys heaps of credit for playing our systems and being accurate in the process too.

“Timmy Goodwin was phenomenal at centre today. Tiari’s been one of our best players every week, and that’s probably the best game I’ve ever seen Dane Whale play.

“It call comes from behind a pack that does their job and goes forward, so everyone put their hand up today.”

Continuing their Grand Hotel Challenge Shield reign and clear favourites for the Paul Mitchell Cup as first round table leaders, Wells agreed they could not get giddy about a 70-point rout and putting 50 points on Border in one half of rugby.

“Every week you’re trying to improve – today we put a stake in the ground, like we did the [game] before.

“If you’re not going forward every week, everyone’s not doing their job.

“There will be work-on’s today, for sure, and we’ll pick them up and pinpoint them, and hopefully we’ll come out better next week.”

After he came off the bench for his first game in a couple of seasons, much of Border coach Cole Baldwin’s thoughts on his team’s efforts were not suitable for print.

“We’ve got no excuses for that sort of performance. Taihape were good, and we just weren’t good enough.

“So we got to take it on the chin and move on, and get better in two weeks time.

“They don’t have a choice, mate. If they don’t start sorting their stuff out, we’ve only got four more games, and that would be us done.

“It’s the hard reality of a small competition. You can see Taihape’s been putting the work in – it’s paying off for them.

“Good on them for the result, and hopefully we’ll be better next time we see them.”

While Hussey nearly got Border away to a great start when he just could not recover his charge down, while Clare was away with a penalty attempt, the visitor’s advantage was soon swept aside.

Whale booted his team deep into attacking territory, where they got a turnover and Mumby jinked through tacklers to dash off for the posts.

Moments later, a good run by winger Renata Campbell-Simon led to a penalty for Whale to put Taihape into the corner for the lineout, with Tutauha getting the recycle from the first shunt at the line to dive to the right and score.

Rogers-Holden caught a Border clearing kick on the run and flew around the disjointed chasers to dash off and score in the corner, with Whale adding the extras from the chalk.

This was all better than expected – Whale opting to take a penalty from in front to extend their lead beyond three converted tries in the event of the customary Border revival.

But it never came.

Two tightheads inside Border’s dangerzone kept Taihape’s pack on the charge, until Mumby popped up amongst them to reach over fallen defenders at the ruck to plant the ball on the line for 27-0

Border kept home alive with an opportunists try on halftime, when a Clare chip kick was fumbled by Taihape and recovered by first-five Tyrone Albert.

His loose pass was toed ahead and grabbed by winger Chris Belton to end up right at the goalpost pads, where prop Ranato Tikoisolomone drove over beside the sticks.

But if onlookers thought Border could now reset with the wind behind them, Taihape took the offer of trading momentum right off the table.

Two minutes after resumption, No8 Ben Whale set up Campbell-Simon to attack from a strong kick return, with Dane Whale then putting Rogers-Holden through the gap.

Lock and captain Matt Brown shifted the angle of attack at the tryline, and then Tutauha was pushing off tacklers at first receiver to score.

Immediately, Taihape ran it back as Whale found Goodwin, who pulled in two tacklers and popped to Campbell-Simon to sprint away to the corner flag.

At 39-7 in the 45th minute it became a procession – Border were gone.

Shifting to the opposite sideline, Goodwin beat his man and set up Rogers-Holden, who outstripped the cover to place the ball beside the flag.

A hard, twisting charge from Hakaraia following a tapped penalty had Taihape back at the line, where Mumby dove across for his hat-trick.

With attackers flying at them, Border got a turnover yet couldn’t clear it, and reserve back Ryan Karatau was soon sprinting under the posts.

Using Hughes to drive low in the midfield, Taihape were back in position and spread the ball for Goodwin to grab a deserved try in the far corner, which an energised Whale converted.

Horrocks tried to break the momentum by going for an intercept on another long pass, but veteran reserve Cyrus Paringatai claimed it and dashed into the gap – finding Goodwin, who could have scored but selflessly ensured the points by giving Campbell-Simon the offload.

Not letting up with the clock ticking down, Taihape drove reserve prop Te Uhi Hakaraia to the line, before Shanks had a crack and then Gabriel Hakaraia pushed off despairing arms to see Taihape raise 50 points from the second half alone.

Taihape 77 (T Mumby 3, R Tutauha 2,T Rogers-Holden 2, R Campbell-Simon 2, R Karatau, T Goodwin, G Hakaraia; D Whale pen, 7 con) bt Border 7 (R Tikoisolomone try; C Clare con). HT: 27-7.