Late run not enough for win
Frank Rees returned to the ground where he oversaw so many Northern United victories on Saturday and came away with yet another win.
Only problem was, he did it for his new outfit, Petone. It was Norths’ fourth loss in seven games and their iron grip on Wellington rugby’s Swindale Shield is all but over – much more pressing is their need to ensure they play in the Jubilee Cup in the next round.
The 27- 20 loss to Petone at Porirua Park sees them level with that team on 16 points, precariously placed in seventh place. The top eight play Jubilee.
It was Old Timers’ Day for Norths and the blue-and-white faithful saw a spirited performance, marred by a referee keen to blow the pea out of his whistle and some ill-discipline from the home side.
The match was lost in the first half, with Petone up 20-3 by the end of the first 40. They played 15-man rugby with a breeze at the backs, while Norths barely had a first half attack.
The visitors scored in the opening minute and kept their foot down the rest of the half, with their organised forwards and excellent backs running Norths ragged. They scored three tries but could have had more.
The second half was a different story, led by openside Dean Brunsdon, and a good-sized crowd willing Norths on. An early penalty and then a try made it 20-13 but their chances took a tumble when centre Nene Va’alepu was sinbinned for a high tackle.
With a gaping hole in their backline, Petone took full advantage and scored out wide to make it 27-13 with 20 minutes left.
Just like the Norths of old – reminiscent of last week ripping Hutt Old Boys Marist apart – they responded with a length-of-the-field try once Va’alepu had re-entered the fray. But he made his bad day worse by being red carded for a silly infraction.
Norths rallied, battering the Petone line in the dying minutes, but they could not cross it.
Tawa, meanwhile, had a moraleboosting 27-20 win over Poneke. They made life hard for themselves, missing 19 points with the boot, but the bonus-point victory has them in 11th on 10 points, giving them a sniff of Jubilee Cup action with four rounds left.
Poneke had taken a 10-0 lead early at Lyndhurst Park but Tawa drew level with two tries before the break and then surged ahead in the second half.
The Norths women’s side had the first round Fleurs Trophy locked away before their game against Oriental-rongotai on Saturday but played like they needed a big win, coming away victors 73-7.
Got ya: Hulking replacement Norths winger Kose Tuimavave scrags a Petone attacker during Saturday’s match at Porirua Park.