Sharks down Pikiao Warriors
Last Saturday on a rain swept Puketewhero park in Rotorua, the Pikiao Warriors were looking to redeem themselves after the Pacific Sharks towelled them in both the premier and reserve grades in the first round of the BOP and Coastline rugby league competition.
In the premier game, Pikiao Warriors were purposeful from the kickoff while the Pacific Sharks seemed to lack cohesiveness and accuracy with ball in hand. But there was nothing lack lustre about the Sharks’ defence, despite missing some key personnel to suspension and injury. The Warriors threw everything they could muster at the Sharks’ apprentices from pinpoint in- goal kicks, spiralling bombs, reciprocating lateral ball movement to sledging and even borderline defence. Sharks player of the day and fullback Vincent Morunga was the recipient of much of Pikiao’s onslaught.
But just before the halftime whistle, centre Weyan Hewett found himself at the end of a backline shift and took no risk launching himself over and through the defence to score.
In the second half, the Warriors continued to apply aerial and territorial pressure, forcing the Sharks to run the ball out of their own half and pinning them back with some aggressive defence. After 52 minutes, their persistence paid off when an acute in-goal grubber kick was misjudged by a defender for Pikiao to score beside the post, 4 – 4. The easiest of conversions was missed.
Two minutes later, Sharks were on attack, threatening the Warriors’ goal line. An over- aggressive defender was sin binned and the resulting penalty calmly converted by Ngari Hawkins.
After 70 minutes of play, again the Sharks threatened the Warriors goal line. In good field position, Sharks captain and hooker Patrick Russell was impeded and a penalty awarded which Hawkins converted bringing the score to 8–4.
Pikiao, the ‘comeback kings’ after last year’s monumental grand final win, made the Sharks supporters edgy with minutes to go. But there would be no Houdini act this time around as Sharks pivots Ezra Takiri and Brian Turia were in command with their driving kicks and a win looked inevitable. Morunga showed his class, defusing any Pikiao threat from the back. The young Sharks forward pack proved their worth with an all-round impressive performance against a Warriors revival.
In the earlier reserve game, the Sharks were too clinical for the disorganised Warriors winning 72–nil. Player of the day Freemin Mackintosh was outstanding in all facets of play alongside fellow forward Dominic Mea.