Last Word On Rugby, by Scott Hornell.
The ‘hits and misses’ continue in Week Seven Mitre 10 Cup results. Not all good, but not all bad–and some spectacular matches and plays. That is what get’s fans engaged–the unpredictable nature of sport, and of New Zealand (NZ) rugby.
In a full week’s schedule of games, the two sides who played twice included Waikato and Canterbury. The two premier names in provincial rugby helped both ‘kick-off’ and then ’round-off’ the week. For one team, a clean sweep. The other, double-failure and a lost prize–the Ranfurly Shield.
— Mitre10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) September 28, 2016
The winner was Canterbury; two wins, and they reclaim the Shield for the 15th time. For Waikato, the biggest loser of the round–first the Shield, and then a loss to Northland. The latter was the more shocking, as the Championship ‘Taniwha’ ended a 19-game Mitre 10 Cup losing streak–and may have ended the Mooloo teams semi finals chances.
Find all the weeks results, plus much more in the NZ Rugby Grandstand.
Week Seven Mitre 10 Cup
Results: Waikato 23 Canterbury 29 | Tasman 15 Counties-Manukau 10 | Wellington 60 Southland 21 | North Harbour 44 Bay of Plenty 34 | Manawatu 21 Hawke’s Bay 30 | Auckland 54 Otago 17 | Taranaki 34 Canterbury 39 | Northland 48 Waikato 27
Hits and Misses
For many, the only result is a win. Obvious for most, but it is the character of the win which more often tells. Coaches will say “we won it tough” or “it was a closely fought loss”. What they mean is that ‘we nearly lost that one’ or ‘we could have won it’ and some results are like that.
Tasman hosted the confident Counties-Manukau team, that many were predicting would be a standout in the knockout stages of the Premiership. No-one told the hosts, and in a strongly defended game, Tasman took their kicks; Marty Banks even missed a few, and they held out the Steelers to win 15-10. A huge miss for the North Island team–compunded by a weeks suspension of Augustine Pulu–but a bolstering victory for the Makos.
— Glenn Kirby (@IndieRockKid1) September 29, 2016
Lions roar in mammoth win over Southland
Not only was the score an obvious indicator of success, but on Friday night the Wellington Lions roared. Yes, it was the lowest placed Southland team, but they were not expecting the barrage at Westpac Stadium. A shame more fans were not there, as it was an entertaining game.
Southland actually kicked off the scoring, when Jahvis Wallace scored. That was followed by two Wellington tries. Southland responded, only for Wellington to again ‘double-up’ and the first half ended when Jason Woodward scored a sensational solo try from 60 metres out. At 38-14. that was only half the entertainment of the night.
After the re-start, Southland attempted but failed to fire. In one capitulation, the ball was left free for flanker Galu Taufale to score a too-easy try. A coach killer, it summed up the evening, although a final minute try almost gave them a respectable 21 points….the problem was, that the Lions had scratched out 60 points. A big hit for them, towards a Championship home semi final place.
Harbour and Hawke’s Bay a huge hit
Attending the Harbour game, you could sense that a fan base had a degree of confidence that has been missing. They wear their shirts, wave their flags and shout out “Run It!” when their side get a chance. Well supported, it was a good victory over a Bay of Plenty side who never gave up. A big hit, and coach Steve Jackson has his side ready to shine.
Hawke’s Bay on the other hand, have been all ‘miss’ leading into this week. A single win, and last weeks home loss had upset the punters. They needed to repay the faithful, and thankfully managed that against Manawatu. In a battle of the Hurricanes-region sides, the weather again played a part. Otere Black is a solid kicker, whereas Ihaia West had ‘polished his kicking boots’ thankfully. He kicked six penalties alone, as poor handling and infringing cost the Turbos badly.
The week seven Mitre 10 Cup ‘Super Saturday’ action was completed, as Auckland demonstrated a better awareness of opportunity. Again and again, Otago get themselves into positions but could not kick-on. When the Auckland team find themselves there, they react more positively and won 54-17. Rieko Ioane even scored his second hatrick in a row! Otago now suffer two consecutive losses, and have Wellington breathing down their neck for the top place in the Championship.
Then on Sunday, Taranaki left it too late to challenge Canterbury. In a home match some were sure the Bulls could fight for, they allowed the Premiership leaders to dictate the terms–never a good choice.
That brings us to the competition standings.
Premiership – Canterbury 35 (8) | Auckland 27 (8) | Taranaki 25 (8) | Counties 25 (8) | Waikato 20 | Tasman 22 | Waikato 20 (8) | H. Bay 14 (8)
Championship – Otago 29 (8) | Wellington 28 | Harbour 19 | Manawatu 15 | Bay of Plenty 13 (8) | Northland 9 (8) | Southland 6 (8).
Tasman are now the last of the Premiership sides who need to complete a double-header round [next week] so Manawatu and Wellington are next in line. They play on Wednesday, in the successive Hurricanes-region game, which will be a test for the Turbos.
Every game now is a test. Of both stamina and conditioning, mental and physical strength. Effort put in during April/May/June will pay off now. The players that can rise-up, take the tackle, run 40 metres to follow to ball, then chase a kick will feel it. The ones that can do that in both the opening quarter and the final quarter are clear to see. Brad Shields is one who has that physical strength, so even while his team are going backwards, his motor is always running.
MVP – Kara Pryor
While his brother Dan may have the bigger reputation, and longer hair, Kara is now building his own legend in Northland Rugby. An inspiration, his tackling and ball handling are top-class. When he is the park (if not in the sin bin) his team have every chance of winning. Beating Waikato, and repairing an unfancied losing streak is one way to write your name in the proud heritage of the North Auckland region.
In a game like rugby, the ‘hits and misses’ are not only on the field, they can be in the public arena. This week, the sport took a battering through the court proceedings of Losi Filipo. His crime, and discharge without prosecution appeared to be due to a ‘promising rugby career’. It created a maelstrom in the public eye. Offense was taken on so many sides, it sucked in the player, union, stakeholders and society as a whole.
NEWS: WRFU and Losi Filipo have mutually agreed to terminate his contract https://t.co/lSP8xPWnJF
— Wellington Rugby (@WgtnRugby) September 27, 2016
Sport has the ability to pull people together. It also has the ability to pull fans in separate directions–think the 1981 Springboks tour. Thankfully, it did not have time to build to that level, as the player made the valiant decision to resign his contract. While it would not repay his victims grief and suffering, it should a gravitas that many considered an adult act. While the consideration of his future was in the judges eye, Last Word On Sport believe the act by the player and union was a positive step in his personal redemption.
Week Eight fixtures
Wednesday October 5 – Manawatu v Wellington, Palmerston North | Thursday October 6 – Auckland v Tasman, Eden Park | Friday October 7 – Canterbury v North Harbour, Christchurch | Saturday October 8 – Southland v Northland, Invercargill | Otago v Counties Manukau, Dunedin | Waikato v Hawke’s Bay, Hamilton | Sunday October 9 – Wellington v Taranaki, Westpac Stadium | Bay of Plenty v Manawatu, Tauranga.
Sport is a powerful, unifying element in life
Every side within the national provincial championship is aiming for a competition standing. As well as that, it is a stepping stone for their players and to elevate the union’s place in NZ Rugby. That comes from results, development, fan engagement and self-pride. Every union, all teams want that same, unifying element; status, as much as competition points.
Week Eight Mitre 10 Cup upcoming matches might not be as all encompassing, but the game is as powerful for it’s merits. It builds character, friendships and is something people aspire to. For the top teams in the Premiership, putting down a marker now is key. If you cannot do that, relegation is a real possibility.
In the next tier; the Championship, it is all about promotion. If the top four have ambitions to go further in years to come, they must make the step-up. Wellington desire that, as do Otago. Harbour are the surprise package, but are under no illusion it will be hard work–they face Canterbury on Friday.
All-in-all, Week Seven was good. It is still building to the last few weeks and teams now make a claim for higher honours. It will be a week to solidify your position. Drop points now and you may not have time to recover, so be ready!
“Main photo credit”