Scrums prove to be the difference
Otorohanga crushed United Matamata Sports 55-24 at Bedford Park on Saturday to move into the top four with one round remaining of the Premiership before the playoffs.
A bonus-point victory over Fraser-Tech at Island Reserve on Saturday would see them through into the last four, with Hautapu one point back in fifth spot to meet UMS at Bedford Park.
Hamilton Marist, Hamilton Old Boys and Melville all won to cement their places in the semifinals and will fight to see who gains home field advantage.
Otorohanga halfback Te Hata Wilbore scored a try in the second minute and his side never looked back. Wilbore controlled the game perfectly with quick service and pinpoint direction and set up the second try when he gathered a loose ball from a back-peddling UMS scrum, ran hard at the line and then popped it to Kauri Coffin, who dotted down untouched.
Otorohanga’s scrum was a difference-maker, constantly driving UMS back to give them good momentum on attack.
UMS were in big trouble after Otorohanga centre Eseroma Nabalawa scored his first try midway through the first half and Wilbore’s boot was sharp too as they increased their lead to 21-0.
The UMS scrum adapted well to Otorohanga’s dominance by hooking the ball back quickly on their feeds and clearing it before getting rolled.
Following one of these quick clearances, UMS got on the board when winger Jamie Gibbs crossed at close range after good runs from Rob Longstaff and Danny Wharawhara.
But with just 10 minutes of the half remaining, UMS continued to make mistakes, with their scrum problems, poor offloads and misstimed decoy runners hurting them.
They let in two more tries, one to lock Anthony Wise and another to flanker Tamaki Kopa, to head into the sheds down 33-5.
The hosts did score first in the second spell after five minutes, when they were awarded a penalty and quick-thinking No 8 Tallis Karaitiana tapped and dived over the try line.
Their comeback was cut short when Ramuwai crossed for his second for Otorohanga after he followed up on a massive threetackle bust run from centre partner Joe Perawiti.
At 38-10, UMS had a slim chance to catch up when centre Epeli Lotawa scored following a 50-metre burst by Gibbs, but Otorohanga replied immediately when Coffin raced through for his second try.
Wilbore capped off an excellent showing with a 50-metre runaway off a loose UMS pass and after Otorohanga flanker Murray Iti and UMS’ Rupeni Vakacegu were shown yellow cards after a scuffle, Lotawa scored a consolation try for the hosts.
The unfortunate aspect of games at this stage of the season for Hinuera is there is nothing to play for and they appeared to be distracted when they played Taupiri at Wealleans Park.
This was demonstrated in the second minute when Taupiri waltzed through defense to open the scoring with a converted try.
Stern words by Luke Gainswick and Kieren McHugh galvanised Hinuera.
From the kick off Hinuera moved the ball left to right for Todd Allen to use his strength to dive over. Benji Olesen converted. Three quick tries, all converted extended Taupiri’s lead. Hinuera scored their second, converted to trail, 28-14 at the break.
Clever play between Levi Henare and Olesen saw Henare sprint over the white line for Hinuera’s third try.
A great run by Nigel Ross who swept past defenders in a 40-metre burst resulted in Hinuera’s bonus point try for their 28 points.
Unfortunately Taupiri rattled on more to hit the half century and Hinuera played the last 10 minutes with 14 men, Gainswick being sin-binned.
Graig Blyde was Player of the Day. Next week, the team is away to Morrinsville.
On a sombre note, former Hinuera player Braedon Coates was injured in a game last week playing for Southern. He has been in Middlemore Hospital with spinal injuries.