Seesaw battle ends in Taihape win
Matt Ashworth, along with locking partner Josh Lane, dominated the lineout, but Kaierau could not capitalise across the field.
PHOTO / Lewis Gardner
Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau's execution went away at the same time as Byford Readimix Taihape's was coming together, as the visitors got up in the last 15 minutes to prevail 17-11 at the Country Club today.
Coming off close losses the previous weekend, while Taihape had also been narrowly beaten by Waverley Harvesting Border in their opening game, this was a Tasman Tanning Premier fixture both teams really needed to win to build momentum and boost their confidence.
But rather than a case of both sides elevating the other to bring out their best, Taihape and Kaierau actually dragged each other down in a scrappy first half as the urgency and intensity on defence led to some nervous mistakes with ball in hand.
Missed goalkicks from both sides meant Taihape took only a narrow 3-0 lead into the break, before Kaierau managed to begin to string some phases together in the third quarter, with first-five Ethan Robinson stepping up, to take an 8-3 advantage.
As evenly matched squads, a lot of players were each cancelling out their opposite number, so those who had ascendancy in their positions stood out like sore thumbs.
Kaierau locks Matt Ashworth and Josh Lane executed strongly in the lineouts with their hooker Kohlt Coveny, while also poaching a vast number of throws from Taihape's representative hooker Dylan Gallien and his lock Matthew Brown.
However, Taihape completely flipped the coin in the scrums and mauls, as their props Wiremu Cottrell and Hadlee Hay-Horton were supported by even more solid muscle behind them to force multiple tightheads and penalties for screwing, while in a crucial moment of the second half they drove Kaierau's forwards back from under their own tryline goalposts to prevent halfback Cameron Davies from scoring.
With their short offloads around the ruck now beginning to stick, Taihape worked into position and Jaye Flaws, the former winger who bulked up to become a standout midfielder, powered his way into gaps to score two tries to the left-hand side of the uprights.
Dropped ball and missed line kicks really sunk Kaierau's chances inside the final 15 minutes, although trailing 17-8 with time all but up, they strung together enough phases to get close so Robinson could pop over another penalty and salvage a bonus point off the final play.
"Good old tough game, they're a well-drilled side," said Taihape coach Tom Wells about his opponents.
"After having two close losses, that's probably a fair result.
"We desperately needed a performance that we'd be proud of."
With Kameli Kuruyabaki having left the club, Taihape slotted Dane Whale into centre outside his first-five brother Luke, and the backline took quite a while to settle into attacking patterns.
Relieved to be playing at home next week after two hard away games, Wells would look at that structure, as well as improving the lineout.
"It is [a work on], but [Kaierau] have got some tall timber there.
"The forwards went match for match.
"That scrum set the tone for that last quarter, and I thought Jaye Flaws was outstanding."
Given consecutive wins have been followed by consecutive narrow losses, Kaierau coach Ace Malo will be looking to tighten up the little things at training.
"What a close game, we're still trying to figure out how we carry," he said.
"The carry was good, but we were too slow to the breakdown. That's why we lost the ball, same as last week.
"[Need to] hold the ball a little bit longer, but the boys are excited to attack.
"The lineout was real good.
"Just as long as we stay in the top six."
Taihape had a good start as a strong run by lock PT Hay-Horton led to a penalty opportunity, which winger Ryan Karatau duly converted in the third minute.
Kaierau looked to return serve but fullback Shandon Scott pushed both his attempts wide, and it seemed to be catching as Karatau then missed a straight-forward kick from nearly in front and then a further range chance, right on halftime.
Robinson stepped up a gear after the break as he took over from Scott to land a good penalty into the slight breeze.
Then after Taihape's pack pushed them back off the tryline, on Kaierau's next attacking opportunity Robinson made a brilliant flick pass in a tackle to set up dangerous second-five Te Tua Kemp, who charged into three defenders and showed great strength to free his arms and place the ball on the line after landing on his back.
Kaierau stealing lineouts was pinning Taihape in their own half, but the visiting forwards got their own back at scrum time and at the breakdown, so much so that they began choosing penalty scrums in the home team's half, rather than go to the sideline.
No 8 Tremaine Gilbert, who had another fine match, went off the back of one of those scrums to hit Flaws at pace, busting the line with just a desperate hand clinging to his boot, before reaching out to score.
Reserve James Barrett took over the kicking and coolly put Taihape back in front 10-8.
Kaierau needed an immediate response but gave away more penalties, with Barrett missing a long range attempt, before a solid looking carry from Kaierau No 8 Joe Edwards saw the ball just slip from his hand, with Kaierau penalised as they poured into the ruck.
Taihape attacked and Gallien nearly decided the match with a strong rampage towards the posts, being injured in the last-ditch tackles.
Kaierau got a relieving penalty but Scott kicked it straight to Flaws near the sideline, with Taihape immediately spreading wide, and after a series of hitups, the second-five powered through again to get his double, with Barrett extinguishing the home side's hopes with the conversion.
Edwards then made the strong run Kaierau had needed only seven minutes before, followed up by centre Tim Goodwin and Lane, and when Taihape infringed right on fulltime, Robinson made sure his team at least didn't walk off with nothing to show for their efforts.
Taihape 17 (J Flaws 2 tries; J Barrett 2 con, R Karatau pen) bt Kaierau 11 (T Kemp try; E Robinson 2 pen). HT: 3-0.
By Jared Smith
Whanganui Chronicle 6/5/19