Seniors bow out in sudden-death playoff

Waimate supporters at Senior semi-final. Waimate supporters turn up to watch the Seniors play Harlequins in a sudden death ‘final’.

In the sudden-death playoff between the top four third and fourth placed teams Waimate started well after Kurt Rooney made a half break and threw a skip pass to Jarred Matthews who fed Miles Medlicott on the loop and after a quick ruck saw Waimate run the blind with Medlicott involved again as he passed to winger Matt Hayman who stretched out to place the ball over the line in the corner for a 5 -0 lead after only 6 minutes.

Waimate’s goalkicker Theo Davidson missed the conversion but had a chance 5 minutes later to add a penalty, but contrary to the previous match when he kicked 7/7, this week his kicking boots had been left at home and he was unsuccessful from about 40m out.

Harlequins then had their turn on attack but in a first half dominated by basic handling mistakes they knocked the ball on just on the Waimate try line. Continued play inside the Waimate half gave Scott Norton a penalty opportunity which he was successful with after 20 minutes closing the score to 5 – 3.

Davidson missed another opportunity from a penalty attempt that was well within range after 26 minutes and as each team took turns on attack, it was not only the good defense by both teams defending their line, but the numerous handling errors that stopped the scoreboard changing.

Harlequins had two more try scoring opportunities in the final 15 minutes of the first half but dropped the crucial last pass and then just on halftime Waimate created its own opportunity but perhaps took the wrong option as Harlequins turned the ball over on their own line to prevent a try and go to the break with Waimate still ahead 5-3.

The second half started without Scott Norton off with concussion and Zane Sanders moving into the pivot role, but with halfback Jordan Hook proving his value and giving great service Sanders’ role was relatively easy as Harlequins took it straight to Waimate and were rewarded after 3 minutes with a penalty to Paula Fifita to take the lead 6 – 5.

Waimate came back up the field and a series of attacks and drives led often by Waimate’s best player Matthews and supported in another good game by openside flanker Mosese Aho gave Waimate a chance for points, but with Davidson seemingly down on confidence they turned down shots at goal and either took a quick tap or kicked for the lineout and despite several opportunities could not breach the Harlequins line, and now began to have their own handling issues allowing Harlequins to absorb attacks and then escape their red zone.

With No 8 Teki Vekune again having a strong match with support from lock Tuieta Tauelangi and veteran Craig Miller Harlequins made good forward momentum leading to a penalty about 30m out and Fifita duly kicked it to stretch the lead to 9 -5.

Harlequins tried to maintain field position, but again handling would undo a lot of good work and it was a coach’s nightmare as both teams made fundamental errors to allow the opposition back into the game.

Fifita missed another penalty chance and then Waimate went on full attack during the last 7 minutes as they tried to score a second try to grab the win and a series of penalties had them attacking the Harlequins line but in the end the ref ruled a turnover and fulltime with Harlequins taking the spoils from a typical final where the pressure of the situation impacted heavily on the skills and decision making of all the players.