Sharks grip grand fi­nal spot

South Waikato News - - SPORTS / TE PAPA HAKINKINA - By PET­RICE TAR­RANT

Stress lev­els were maxed out for those watch­ing the nail-bit­ing semi­fi­nal be­tween Taupo Pheonix and Pa­cific Sharks in the week­end.

It was do or die for both teams who lay their hearts out on the field for a spot in the grand-fi­nal.

But it was Pa­cific who ground deep and held out to win 22-24.

Coach Pan­iora Daniels said it was an ‘‘ok’’ per­for­mance from his side that was rid­dled with in­jury and, for a good por­tion of the match, play­ing right out of po­si­tion.

A lack in ex­e­cu­tion on of­fence and sloppy de­fence par­tic­u­larly on the wings meant it was a closer match than an­tic­i­pated.

But that is a good semi-fi­nal for you, Daniels said.

‘‘It was al­most like a grand fi­nal re­ally, both teams were des­per­ate, play­ing like it was their last.’’

A flat start for Pa­cific saw Taupo put the first points on the board, lead­ing 4-0 af­ter the first few open­ing min­utes. But it didn’t take long for Pa­cific to find their stride on at­tack and it was De­laney Takiri who crossed the line to even the score.

Daniels said the in­ges­tion of Yan­nis Mea, who was back from in­jury, and Takiri at the right time changed the game in the first 40 min­utes.

Pa­cific headed in to the chang­ing sheds lead­ing by just two points at half time.

The sec­ond half was a mea­sure of com­po­sure for both teams. Pa­cific made it hard for them­selves with stray passes and er­rors plac­ing added pres­sure on the young side.

It was clear the side lacked ex­pe­ri­ence in the form of Callin Tereau and Vin­cent Morunga who were both nurs­ing in­juries from the pre­vi­ous week’s en­counter.

Ash­ley Fran­sham was also sorely missed, Daniels said.

Peter Le­toga and Jus­tice Rik­iHa­mana moved up from the re­serves to help make up num­bers and both per­formed ex­cep­tion­ally well con­sid­er­ing, Daniels said.

‘‘We went with a real small pack and a pretty young team.’’

De­fence needs to pick up if they are to have any chance against Pikiao this week­end, Daniels said.

‘‘De­fence wins games and that’s go­ing to be our main fo­cus this week.’’

In par­tic­u­lar the boys will need to im­prove their line and fringe de­fence and line speed, he said.

‘‘We’ve got to get right up in their face. They’ve got a good half­back and if you give him space he’ll tear you apart like he did to us the other week.’’

Pa­cific will be bank­ing on a few more stand- out in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances such as that of co­cap­tain Shane Kuru in the match against Taupo.

The game will be played in Ro­torua with a 2.45pm kick off.

Off to the fi­nal: This week­end will be a real test for reign­ing cham­pi­ons Pa­cific Sharks as they take on the tal­ented Pikiao War­riors in the grand fi­nal.

Stong de­fence: Pa­cific Sharks play­ers keep a strong line on de­fence.

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