University wins to remain top

Alhambra-Union midfielder Burt McAdam is stopped by Harbour defenders (from left) Ngana Nicholas,...
Alhambra-Union midfielder Burt McAdam is stopped by Harbour defenders (from left) Ngana Nicholas, Marckis Schaaf and Sione Misiloi at the North Ground on Saturday. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
University consolidated its place at the top of the competition standings with a 30-24 win against Dunedin.

Taieri is the only other unbeaten side. It pounced on some mistakes to beat Southern 32-16.

Harbour posted its first win of the season, dispatching the winless Alhambra-Union 38-6, while Kaikorai was too good for Green Island, winning 32-17.

Harbour    38
Alhambra-Union    6

Here is a tip — you have to push if you want to get the ball back from a scrum.

Alhambra-Union was amiss in that department and a little forgetful when it came to tackling as well.

Harbour shunted the home side off the ball at the North Ground to claim a series of tightheads and none was more important than the one shortly after the break.

Powerful No8 Solomon Pole suddenly found the ball at his feet. He drafted behind the scrum for a few metres and then crashed over to extend his side’s 17-6 halftime lead.

Harbour scored two more late tries to secure a 38-6 win, its first win for the season.

It was a convincing victory in the end but Harbour spent most of the opening 20 minutes pinned in its half and has plenty to work on to regain the form which enabled it to reach the final last season.

Alhambra struggled to take advantage of its early territorial superiority. First five-eighth Brady Kingan knocked over two penalties to give his side a 6-0 lead.

But having dominated, Logan Allen was able to slip through some weak defence to score between the posts.

Another defensive blunder allowed halfback Vinnie Isherwood to gallop through a large gap. The move swept 60m upfield before impressive lock Sione Misiloi swatted aside two tacklers to score from 10m out.

Kaikorai    32
Green Island    17

Green Island tried a little too hard and was left ruing a couple of stray passes.

But Kaikorai certainly knows how to protect a lead and dominated possession and territory in the second spell to close out a 32-17 win in the Ken St Clair-Newman Memorial at Miller Park.

Green Island had the better of the opening 10 minutes. It had most of the ball but it was Kaikorai which  struck first through winger Jordan McEntee.

Kaikorai was getting up quickly on defence and Green Island was guilty of  not being patient enough in possession.

It pushed passes it should have held and Kaikorai pounced to stray passes to score a brace of intercept tries to establish a healthy buffer.

Green Island rallied through tries to experienced front rower Peter Mirrieless and pivot Finn Hart-Strawbridge to trail 24-14 at the break.

The second spell was messy. It was a stop-start affair with a steady flow of penalties for both sides.

Kaikorai was facing the wind and protected possession to stay in control of the fixture.

Loose forward Slade McDowall had an industrious game for Kaikorai and halfback Kadin Brocks provided some service for his backline.

Lock Woody Kirkwood was the best of the Green Island players.

Taieri    32
Southern    16

Taieri lost classy first five-eighth Josh Casey in the warm-up and really battled at scrum time.

But the Eels worked hard on defence and pounced on mistakes to beat Southern 32-16 in the Roy Nieper Trophy at Peter Johnstone Park.

The home team started well, piling the pressure on Southern. The gaps emerged out wide and the Eels ran a try in on each wing.

Southern responded with a penalty but Taieri swung back on to attack. The pack belted the ball up field and lock Josh Larsen got over.

Southern prop Mike Mata’afa rumbled across just before halftime to cut the gap to 15-10 at the break.

With Casey sidelined with a groin strain, Taieri managed just one conversion the whole game.

It also found itself backpedalling in the scrum and had to endure a long period on defence in the second half as Southern asserted its set piece dominance.

The visiting side slotted two penalties and took a 16-15 lead. But Taieri defended tenaciously and the turning point came when it was able to nab a crucial turnover from another defensive scrum.

The Eels cleared and momentum shifted. Southern dropped the ball twice midway through the second spell and Taieri was able to score from both opportunities to clinch its third win in a  row.

University    30
Dunedin    24

University took all the chances Dunedin offered it and convincingly won the game.

Dunedin  squandered most of its opportunities and consequently lost the game.

The students dominated the first half and scored three good tries on the back of constant pressure on the Dunedin defence.University’s two best backs, halfback Kieran McLea and first five-eighth Roman Blackman, strolled over for tries through non-existent defence to have 20 points by halftime.

Dunedin midfielder James Te Pairi and flanker Hame Toma bought respectability to the scoreline with tries and it was only eight points down at the break.

Dunedin had more possession in the second spell and scored two tries to Varsity’s one but could not close the deficit.

Varsity scored a crucial late try to winger Cam Gerlach after a breakout from yet another Dunedin turnover to give it a six-point lead Dunedin could not reel in and with that it took the two trophies at stake: the Jonathan Keogh Memorial Trophy and the Speight’s Challenge Shield.

Dunedin could not maintain possession as sloppy passing and over ambitious off-loads continued to haunt it.

Its tackling was poor, especially in the first half, and this ultimately cost it the game. Up front, University prop Kilipati Lea was powerful with ball in hand and flanker Sam Dickson was a menace at lineout time and was never far from the ball. McLea and Blackman were the difference between the backlines and were polished and controlled in everything they did.

Dunedin lost captain and first five-eighth George Witana to a dislocated shoulder, which did not  help its cause. Flanker Toma was a standout and the side’s best attacking weapon, while big lock Ben Freschini was a tower of strength in the middle row.


Round four
The scores

Harbour 38 (Logan Allen, Sione Misiloi, Solomon Pole, Sekonaia Pole, Vinnie Isherwood tries; Allen 3 con, pen, Ewen Brumwell 2 con), Alhambra-Union 6 (Brady Kingan 2 pen). Haltime: 17-6.

Taieri 32 (Josh Larsen, Glen Beadle, James Wilson-Bishop, Marc Rooney, Vinnie O’Connell, Kori Rupene tries; Brodie Flannery con), Southern 16 (Mike Mata’afa try; Jono Hayes 3 pen, con). Halftime: 15-10.

Kaikorai 32 (TJ Ane 2, Jordan McEntee, Lane Opetaia tries; Gus Gray 3 con, 2 pen), Green Island 17 (Peter Mirrielees, Finn Hart-Strawbridge tries; Hart-Strawbridge 2 con,  pen). Halftime: 24-14.

University 30 (Sam Dickson, Kieran McLea, Roman Blackman, Cam Gerlach tries; Mike Williams 2 con, 2 pen),  Dunedin 24 (James Te Pairi, Hame Toma, Cam Hays, Silipa Solofa tries; Nico McGregor 2 con).

Halftime: 20-12.

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