Club rugby: Taihape finally get job done in Waverley

Taihape beat Border at Dallison Park on Saturday. Photo / Supplied

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A decade of heartache, bad luck, costly decisions and occasional blowouts were laid to rest by the unbeaten Byford Readimix Taihape side in Waverley on Saturday.

Having claimed every trophy, including their current Grand Hotel Challenge Shield, as well as won at every other ground which makes up the Tasman Tanning Premier grade, Taihape finally climbed the sole remaining mountain with their first win at Dallison Park – a strong second-quarter and then getting quality service from a deep bench leading to a decisive 51-15 victory.

While Taihape have had their issues with injury and illness, leading to some of their stronger players not getting on until the second half, Border were certainly more depleted, missing half a dozen regulars from co-captain Angus Middleton on down, including two leading players returning to Fiji for a funeral.

For that reason, Border and their supporters took a philosophical attitude to the blown-out scoreline.

Indeed, having a bye before their home semifinal against Settler’s Honey Ngamatapouri, Border have time to bring their first-string players back online, while the first 20 minutes should prove an effective blueprint of how to play Taihape, should they meet again in three weeks at Cooks Gardens.

The home side harnessed the wind through Craig Clare’s boot and the forwards drove through an attacking lineout for the first try after seven minutes, as both teams traded tries and kicks for a 10-10 stalemate.

However, from here, Taihape’s first-five Dane Whale, one of the handful of veterans who suffered through so many of those Waverley defeats, took control of hearings with a strong running performance, finding either center Tim Goodwin or fullback Tyler Rogers-Holden in the right spot to convert a line break into either tries or an attacking 22m incursion.

Lock Peter-Travis Hay-Horton was also aggressive up the middle, a professional foul yellow card notwithstanding, and when he came on the 45th minute, standout prop Gabriel Hakaraia was able to steady a seven-man scrum and bulldozed his way through on the carries, adding two more tries to his ever-growing total.

Border prop Hamish Mellow and flanker Kieran Hussey competed with the bigger Taihape pack for as long as they could, but when the visitors had three representative players coming off the bench, while the home side had “Dad’s Army” of older players out of the currently in recess Senior team, the writing was on the wall.

For this reason, a lot of the intensity came out of the clash in the final quarter, quite uncommon for this East vs West rivalry, but that just let Taihape take the time to savour crossing off the last goal from their bucket list.

“The closest in my era was the 10-9 loss four years ago, my first game up here, so it’s a nice one,” assistant coach Gareth Hagan said.

“We’ve traditionally struggled up here to put Border away, so nice to do it today with a lot of our bench guys, and a lot of guys playing a bit out of position that second half.

“Our bench strength has been an absolute bonus for us this year – you see when you’re running guys on, quality players.

“There’s guys still fighting for positions, we probably haven’t really squared up where starting positions are going to be but the guys aren’t worried, they all get time, and everyone’s happy.

“Dane, I thought, controlled things really well. Typical Dane, couple of little interesting options taken – but his general play in terms of defense and his running game got us on the front foot.

“I thought [prop] Isaac Roth was outstanding until his [injury]that knee’s a little bit of a concern, but we’ll look at that.

“Gabriel, once again, off the bench, he was in bed with Covid two weeks ago, but he’s going really well.

“In the backs, Cyrus [Paringatai] and Jaye [Flaws] the old guys coming back, really added some stability in there for us.”

Border coach Cole Baldwin had been furious on May 14 when his similarly depleted side did not even fired a shot over at Memorial Park, losing 77-7.

However, planning on having a vastly different-looking lineup in two weeks against Ngamatapouri, there was more value to take out of the day’s efforts.

“You can see the players we didn’t have there, it was always going to be a bit of a tough ask, but those guys that stepped in and did their jobs, I thought did really well.

“A lot of these guys haven’t played a hell of a lot of rugby, a bit old in the tooth, but they did their part for the club to get a team on the field.

“Reset time now, and we just build to the semifinal and hopefully get the job done. We will be back to full strength, barring any more flu and colds, and hopefully no more Covid.”

Baldwin paid tribute to fullback Tyrone Albert, who played his 50th Premier game for the club, and gave a valiant effort until unfortunately he had to be helped off with injury midway through the second half – the Taihape side respectfully applauding him off.

“He’s a good kid too – I can’t really call him a kid because he’s been around a while, but he’s given a lot to this club, not just the Premier side but played a lot of seasons for the B side as well. “

Taihape 51 (G Hakaraia 2, T Rogers-Holden 2, R Tutauha, D Whale, B Whale, B Nicholls tries; D Whale pen, 4 con) bt border 15 (R McDonald, T Symes tries; C Clare pen, con).


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