Waikato eyes top four spot

South Waikato News - - SPORT -

Waikato are just out­side of a top­four spot in the ITM Cup af­ter a 27-27 draw with Hawke’s Bay on Satur­day.

The Mooloo men sit on 21 points af­ter seven games, leav­ing them in fifth place with six round robin games left to play.

The draw on Satur­day af­ter­noon had a dra­matic fin­ish. Hawke’s Bay’s Richard Buck­man twice slot­ting penal­ties from 50m out to draw level.

With Buck­man lev­el­ling the game at 24-24 Trent Re­nata gave Waikato a three-point buf­fer with four min­utes to go.

Waikato al­most held on but con­ceded a penalty in the last play of the game, Buck­man nail­ing the penalty af­ter the full-time hooter had sounded.

Waikato will need to get over the dis­ap­point­ment quickly with a short turn­around this week. To­mor­row night they face com­pe­ti­tion lead­ers South­land in Hamil­ton.

The Ran­furly Shield is not up for grabs at Waikato Sta­dium, which is prob­a­bly a good thing given the tenac­ity with which the south­ern­ers de­fend the shield.

The match will be a tough one for Waikato, South­land are on form, hav­ing thumped North Har­bour on Fri­day.

On Satur­day Waikato went to half­time lead­ing just 12-6, de­spite hav­ing a two-to-one ad­van­tage in ter­ri­tory and scor­ing the only two tries of the half.

The vis­i­tors could eas­ily have had their bonus point be­fore the break with dan­ger­ous cen­tre Save Tokula scor­ing from a quick tap penalty and skip­per Liam Mes­sam from a slickly worked blind-side scrum move in­volv­ing half­back Bren­don Leonard and right winger Tim Mikkel­son.

But Mes­sam and Mikkel­son each put a foot in touch on op­po­site sides of the field, div­ing for the corner in the last five min­utes of the half, while other breaks were not fin­ished off.

Re­nata scored a con­verted try early in the sec­ond spell, prop Clint New­land got one back for the Bay, and Kirk­patrick kicked a penalty be­fore Waikato grabbed their bonus point with a fourth try scored by prop Toby Smith.

Elu­sive Bay full­back Gil­lies Kaka kept his team in the game with a bril­liant try when a tricky bounce caught out the de­fence at the back for Waikato.

That made the score 24-21 and was Buck­man’s cue to be the hero for the home side. The 21-year-old had never taken a kick at goal for the Bay be­fore but, with his flat­mates Mark Jack­man and An­drew Hor­rell both out in­jured and first five-eighths Daniel Kirk­patrick car­ry­ing an in­jury, he stepped up to take two cru­cial shots.

‘‘I guess I’m only fourth or fifth choice kicker when Izzy (All Black Is­rael Dagg) is back, ‘‘ Buck­man said.

‘‘I kicked 11 or 12 be­fore the game and didn’t miss. I was strik­ing it well.’’

– Sun­day Star Times and Mathew Grocott

BIG CLASH: Waikato face South­land to­mor­row in a cru­cial ITM Cup en­counter.

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