Mid­dle­ton leads charge

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

Chris Mid­dle­ton is lit­er­ally head and shoul­ders above the op­po­si­tion.

The mas­sive North­ern United lock was a stand­out when his team re­turned to win­ning ways in Welling­ton rugby’s sec­ond tier Hard­ham Cup on Satur­day.

Norths needed a strong per­for­mance af­ter their last-gasp loss to Old Boys-Univer­sity’s sec­ond team last week, and de­spite some early re­sis­tance from Welling­ton, the Porirua side recorded an em­phatic 42-21 win to move into third in the standings.

Mid­dle­ton, who has been a part of the Chiefs Su­per 15 fran­chise for four years, made some telling runs.

He was cru­cial in set pieces and his de­fence, as part of a res­o­lute Norths pack, was out­stand­ing.

His coach, Thomas Per­e­nara, said it was a huge boost to have Mid­dle­ton back.

‘‘To have him and Rob [Aloe, first-five eighth] back has been great for us,’’ he said. ‘‘They’ve in­jected some­thing at train­ing and have that ex­pe­ri­ence and enthusiasm.

‘‘Rob di­rected us around the park against Welling­ton so well.’’

For Per­e­nara, an­other key player on Satur­day was hooker Leni Api­sai. ‘‘There’s some big wraps on him and you can see why. He’s a fan­tas­tic player and has a bright fu­ture.’’

The loss to OBU hurt his team and gave them ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion at train­ing, Per­e­nara said. Cer­tainly the con­tact from Norths was fierce from the out­set against Welling­ton.

The vis­i­tors gave a good ac­count of them­selves in the open­ing 40 min­utes.

A try to Norths’ debu­tant winger Gra­ham Up­ton can­celled an early Welling­ton penalty and then storm­ing for­ward play gave tire­less blind­side flanker Ai­den Cains a try, which made it 12-3.

Norths looked to be in again down the left side­line, but Norths sec­ond- five Kone­lio Feau­nati’s pass was in­ter­cepted and the Ax­e­men were back to 12-10.

A try to bustling cen­tre Pero­feta Silva and a Perry Hay­man penalty gave Norths a handy 22-10 half­time lead.

The sec­ond half was one-way traf­fic and tries to Hay­man, AJ Va’alepu and Luca Gibb made it safe.

Welling­ton played with plenty of heart, but Norths were too big and strong and broke their op­po­nents’ line of­ten. Hay­man fin­ished with 17 points.

‘‘Welling­ton are a good side, but we hit them hard,’’ Per­e­nara said.

‘‘We lacked a bit of pa­tience at times and gave a cou­ple away, but it was a good day.

‘‘ We’re blood­ing some young play­ers to this level. It’s im­por­tant we have those suc­ces­sion plans for the good of the club.’’

Else­where in Hard­ham Cup play, Pare­mata-Plim­mer­ton went down 29-17 to Poneke at Ngati­toa Do­main.

Poneke were the much big­ger side and it showed with their dom­i­nance in the tight.

Ryan McLean scored two tries in a solid out­ing for Pare­mataPlim­mer­ton, who won the sec­ond half 14-10.

In Ju­bilee Cup ac­tion, Tawa nearly lost their fifth suc­ces­sive match, but came away from Wil­liam Jones Park in Wainuiomata with a 19-19 draw.

Wainuiomata were up 16-0 at half­time, but tries to Jeff Makapelu, Tu Umaga- Mar­shall and Ran­dall Bishop gave Tawa a vi­tal two points for the match and keeps them in the hunt.

Photo: KRIS DANDO

Will­ing: Norths No 8 Anthony Masina put in a strong game for North­ern United against Welling­ton.

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