Defending champions Celtic put their Hamersley Cup campaign back on track with a solid 35-16 win against Waimate on Saturday.
Coach Nigel Walsh said it was an improved effort after last week’s loss to Pleasant Point.
“We played a good game of rugby, everyone did the basics right. It puts us back on track, but there are three or four teams in the competition this year who are pretty close together,” he said.
Celtic scored four tries to Waimate’s two, but it was a tighter match at the Celtic Sports Ground than the scoreline suggested.
The visitors led 5-0 in the sixth minute, thanks to first five-eighth Kurt Rooney finishing off a nice backline move to score in the corner, but they couldn’t capitalise on the early lead.
Celtic soon came back, thanks to tries to prop Jeremy Bailey and second five-eighth Pat Tuapoloa.
Celtic led 20-11 at halftime, although they were more efficient than enterprising. Their backline appears to be slower than last year, but they had their moments: winger Aporosa Tabulawaki scored a great try after he picked up a loose turnover ball to run 30 metres to score shortly after halftime.
However, Waimate outplayed Celtic for much of the second half. Flanker Brad Keen, playing his 50th senior match, was quick to the breakdown and secured some crucial turnovers.
Waimate halfback Theo Davidson’s 30m chip-and-chase effort off the back of a scrum feed was the try of the match, partly because it was so unlikely.
Unfortunately, Davidson’s place kicking was inconsistent: he missed two penalties at crucial moments.
Waimate tired near the end, and lazy defence led to Celtic flanker Nick Strachan’s try just before fulltime.
However, Waimate coach Paul Henshaw said it was a good contest.
“If the bounce of the ball had gone our way or we had got more kicks over, it could’ve been much closer. Two of Celtic’s tries were against the run of play, and that was the difference,” he said.
It was Waimate’s fourth consecutive loss, but they remain fifth on the table and still in contention.