Encouraging signs from Whalers

Otago Whalers forward Misinale Fifita gets an offload away despite the attention from Akarana...
Otago Whalers forward Misinale Fifita gets an offload away despite the attention from Akarana Falcons player Sam Waterworth at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The Akarana Falcons were almost twice as good as the Otago Whalers on the scoreboard.

But there was still plenty to like about the Whalers’ debut appearance in the premiership.

They lost 42-22 to the defending champions.

But the home side was competitive in patches.

The forwards muscled up.

The small but vocal crowd at Forsyth Barr Stadium appreciated every thumping tackle and ferocious hit-up.

And the Whalers scored the most spectacular try of the match — who cares if it was a total fluke.

Louis Tili hit the crossbar with a chip, and captain Hagen Free snagged the rebound on the full and crashed over.

It brought a lot of giggles.

But the Whalers scored three other tries which were no laughing matter for Akarana.

The visitors were too strong on the edges, and had too much savvy.

But they did not have it all their own way, despite running in nine tries themselves.

Whalers coach David Reedy gave his side a pass mark, but said there was plenty to work on ahead of their next match against Counties-Manukau.

"We competed in patches but I guess it just shows that they had played more rugby league than us," Reedy said.

"They had come off the Fox Memorial Cup and their plays of the ball were quicker and they got us around the ruck," he said.

The speed at which Akarana played meant the Whalers were sucked into the middle of the paddock and that left their fringes unguarded.

The Auckland-based team scored some cheap tries that way.

The other issues the Whalers ran into were that their set completion was not as high as they would have liked, and their kicking game lacked some finesse.

"Our end-of-set kicks were terrible. We took some poor options and that could have been better. But that is something we can work on now.

"But we’re pretty proud of the effort from the boys. We weren’t that far off. The game was a bit closer than the score reflects, I think."

Counties-Manukau had a 44-0 win against the Canterbury Bulls in their opening game on Saturday and shape as a major title contender.

The Auckland Vulcans, who have picked up quite a few players from Akarana this season, beat Waikato Mana 48-22 to get their campaign off to a positive start.


NZRL National Premiership

The scores

Akarana Falcons         42

Samuel Waterworth 2, Viliame Cerei 2, Lani Graham-Taufa, Hawaiiki Annandale, Blake Collins-Kamuhemu, Zion Tanielu Seiuli, Lorenzo Filimaua tries; Filimaua 2 con, Collins-Kamuhemu con.

Otago Whalers            22

Keenan Masina, Ma’ole Faletolu, Tama Apineru, Hagan Free tires; Jordan McEntee 3 con.

Halftime:  20-6