The classic adage of a “game of two halves” summed up the 15 all draw between competition leaders Celtic and Waimate at Manchester Park.
It was all Celtic in the first half starting from a tighthead at the first scrum as they dominated possession with their forwards driving mauls and pick and goes gaining huge yardage. Matt Fetu led the way and fellow front rowers Garrett Casey and Sione Vea also gave plenty of support while the whole pack enjoyed their chances to get ball in hand.
Eventually Celtic was rewarded in the 10th minute as No 8 Kali Latu ran the blind untouched to score out wide from one of these mauls.
Four minutes later another breakout from within their own half was only thwarted when held up over the line, but the final tackle by Aho coming across in cover was deemed high and the resulting penalty kick was successful for James Hawkey to take Celtic out to an 8 point lead.
It looked like being a very tough day at the office for Waimate, especially when Latu continued his powerful display for the day crashing over for his second try after Celtic pushed Waimate off the ball at a defensive scrum in the 25th minute.
Waimate was living off scraps and a line-out turnover but despite attacking from all parts of the field when they did have the ball, were guilty of handling errors when they did get opportunities, with a great opportunity to strike back just before halftime messed up with a forward pass, another earlier with a missed pass, as they couldn’t regularly retain the ball at the breakdown.
Celtic had dominated the match and deservedly went to the halftime break leading 15 – 0.
When the second half started with Waimate now playing uphill and into the sun, perhaps it was an omen as dark clouds blocked the sun, but they certainly came out of the shed a different team.
Talking to coach Barry Matthews about whether he had given them a halftime bollocking, he said no he emphasised that they needed to get back to the game plan and when they got the ball they had to retain it.
They must have listened as it was like the teams had swapped jerseys as the Waimate forwards led by another strong game from prop Tokoma’ata Fakatava and blindside Eafou Tagaia with support from locks Don Lolo and South Canterbury’s loan player from last season Tom Dwyer back in his first run on of the season drove back on the angle at Celtic and these surges gained ground with all the players on hand in support.
A couple of defensive warnings to Celtic led to the sin-binning of Latu 10 minutes into the half and while he was off hooker Connor Farrell opened the scoring for Waimate, good reward for a player always in the middle of the work.
With the momentum changing and the Waimate players with some belief now, the backs spun it wide from inside their own 22 and centre Mosese Aho showed his speed and skills as he stepped inside or bust through tackles. Replacement winger Hayden Matthews read the play perfectly coming inside Aho to take the pass and sprint the final 40 yards to score under the posts and when converted by Colin Ryan closed the score up to just 15 – 12 with 20 minutes left to play.
Both teams had chances to turn the ball over but the defensive intensity had really lifted, and eventually Celtic infringed mid-field allowing Waimate Captain Miles Medlicott to change tactics from kicking for the line and instead called Ryan up to take a shot. He connected perfectly and suddenly the match was all tied up with about 13 minutes left.
Waimate then made another breakout from well in their own half as the sight of the big forwards running up field brought the crowd to its feet, and a chip kick led to a race for the try won by Waimate, but the visiting Southland referee Dean Van Brecht continued his good match checking with his assistant and ruling the try out after a slight knock on prior to the final play.
Celtic defended well from the ensuing set piece to make their way back downfield and play went back and forth midfield for some time before another mistake had the Waimate goal kicker stepping up for a penalty attempt from halfway to take the lead with 5 minutes on the clock. A well struck kick fell just under the crossbar and then for the final 5 minutes it was all Celtic as they attacked deep in the Waimate half, but the defence held winning a penalty to kick the ball out and finish with a draw in extra time.
Other Club Day Results:
Senior B lost to Celtic 15 – 19
U18 beat Harlequins 32 – 17
U16 beat Roncalli Blue 27 – 25
U14.5 just lost to TBHS Leopards 43 – 47