Sharks grip grand final spot
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.