University just gets it done with 80th minute try

For a moment, it seemed the final may have to be decided by the number of boundaries hit or something silly like that.

No-one wanted that. Least of all University.

It had to share the title with Harbour last year and another draw was looming.

Taieri produced a epic fightback from 31-3 down at halftime to level the scores 31-31 with five minutes remaining.

University players are thrilled after Angus Williams (centre) scores the match-winning  try...
University players are thrilled after Angus Williams (centre) scores the match-winning try against Taieri at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday. PHOTOS: GERARD O'BRIEN

But extra time was avoided when University prop Angus Williams drove over from close range in the final minute of the match, to seal a dramatic 38-31 win at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

University captain Jack McHugh helped shunt the "Gus Bus" over the line and was thrilled to have been part of another tremendous match.

"We knew how hard it was last year and the boys were pretty eager to get it done in 80," he said.

But University made hard work of the second half.

Taieri scored 28 unanswered points and dominated all but the last minute of the half.

"I'm pretty gutted," Taieri captain Tom Hardy said.

The hooker helped spark the resurgence with some strong carries and a try from a lineout drive.

"I'm still really proud of the guys.

"We stuck in there and had that second half."

"We just said at halftime, `let's get a bit more direct and physical' and that is exactly what we did."

Lock Don Lolo took that message to heart.

He scored twice and Taieri's reserves made a big impact when they were injected into the match.

Highlanders prop Aki Seiuli turned parity at scrum time into a huge advantage for the Eels. He was instrumental in the penalty try University conceded from a 5m scrum with five minutes remaining.

He was also hard to tackle, barging forward every time he carried.

Taieri opened the scoring from the tee with a penalty, but that was pretty much its last contribution for the opening half.

University went on a four-try scoring blitz and it was Taylor Haugh who got the scoreboard moving.

George Bell and Sam Dickson helped clear out some defenders with a charge each. Varsity swung it left quickly and Haugh slipped through a half gap, held off a defender with a fend and reached out with his free arm to score.

Some slick work from Dickson set up the next. Taieri had not numbered up on the blindside and Dickson snapped a pass to winger Patrick Atkinson, who was unmarked. He sprinted 30m towards the corner and beat the cover with a lovely step.

The third was a little fortunate, perhaps. Winger Calvin Vari had made a good run and flicked the ball inside.

Tyler Beary put his boot to the pass, got the bounce he needed and scored.

And the fourth? Haugh again. Who else?

He got the ball close to the line, turned square off a huge left foot step and thrust himself towards the line. Those arms of his must be longer than they appear.

Taieri made a late charge in the first spell but halfback Connor McLeod made a try-saving tackle on Marc Rooney in the corner and lock Josh Hill came up with a crucial turnover. More crucial than anyone knew at the time.

 

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