Waikato eyes top four spot
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.