Waikato stun Coun­ties and make fi­nal

Papakura Courier - - OUT & ABOUT - AARON GOILE

Waikato have stunned the Coun­ties Manukau St­ingrays and surged their way into the rugby league na­tional pre­mier­ship fi­nal, after a 32-18 last-round vic­tory in Auck­land on Satur­day.

The win was Waikato’s only one of the quick fire three-round round robin, but their points dif­fer­en­tial was good enough to pro­pel them into the de­cider next Satur­day night at Mt Smart Sta­dium against de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons the Akarana Fal­cons.

Hav­ing last year had to win their way up from the cham­pi­onship di­vi­sion after be­ing placed in the sec­ond tier un­der the New Zealand Rugby League’s re­struc­tur­ing of the com­pe­ti­tion, Waikato have fi­nally been re­warded for their en­deav­our, after close home losses to Akarana and the Can­ter­bury Bulls left them fac­ing a tough fi­nal-day sce­nario at The Trusts Arena.

Firstly need­ing Akarana to beat Can­ter­bury at the same venue, Waikato saw that equa­tion come through, then they had to pro­duce the goods in a win­ner­take-all clash with Coun­ties, which they did so valiantly, scor­ing six tries to three in a classy show­ing against much-more fan­cied op­po­nents, who were run­ners-up last year.

Cap­tain and full­back Aaron Jol­ley was a star yet again, and while he crossed the chalk for the third suc­ces­sive week­end, it was his also his set-up play which was qual­ity, as winger Eric Taiulu pros­pered with a hat-trick.

Down by eight with 10 min­utes to go, Coun­ties had prime op­por­tu­nity to make a late charge for vic­tory, but a dropped ball near Waikato’s try­line proved costly, then on the back of a penalty Waikato surged down the other end and hooker Mal­colme Noda bur­rowed over from dummy half.

That sealed a stun­ning vic­tory and their spot in the de­cider, while for Coun­ties Manukau it means they fin­ish fourth and will play in the pro­mo­tion/rel­e­ga­tion match ear­lier next Satur­day evening at Mt Smart, against Bay of Plenty, who beat Otago 26-24 in Ro­torua on Satur­day to take out the cham­pi­onship di­vi­sion. Waikato 32 (Eric Taiulu 3, Aaron Jol­ley, Rei­hana Tai Rak­ena, Mal­colme Noda tries; Aaron Jol­ley 4 goals)

Coun­ties Manukau 18 (David Fa’aete’ete, Ge­orge Ed­wards, Howard Brown tries; Wil­liam Stow­ers 3 goals).

HT: 10-12.

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