Mooloos seal a well-earned fi­nal win Waikato turns rugby for­tunes around with eight wins out of nine games

Te Awamutu Courier - - News - BY COLIN THORSEN

What a dif­fer­ence a sea­son has made for the Waikato rugby team in the Mitre 10 Cup com­pe­ti­tion un­der the as­tute coach­ing team of Jono Gibbes and his as­sis­tants Nathan White and Roger Ran­del.

Af­ter los­ing the Ran­furly Shield to Otago just two weeks ago, the Mooloo men got their re­venge in the Cham­pi­onship fi­nal with a 36-13 win in Hamil­ton on Fri­day night.

In do­ing so, Waikato will re­turn to the Premier­ship next year af­ter just a one-sea­son stay in the Cham­pi­onship.

The for­tunes of the proud rugby prov­ince in 2018 are in stark con­trast to the hor­ror show of last sea­son when the side suf­fered seven straight losses to end a dis­mal cam­paign.

Waikato turned around their cam­paign this year with eight wins out of nine — the Shield de­feat the sole blem­ish.

It was mis­sion ac­com­plished for Gibbes in his one-off sea­son back coach­ing Waikato.

The ex-All Black de­parts in the next fort­night to take on the role of di­rec­tor of coach­ing at French rugby club La Rochelle on the At­lantic coast.

Gibbes, 41, quit his post as Ul­ster’s di­rec­tor of rugby to re­turn to coach Waikato — the prov­ince he formerly played for fam­ily rea­sons.

He was granted a re­lease by the North­ern Ire­land club on com­pas­sion­ate grounds in March, but in May went to La Rochelle to talk to the French Top 14 club about po­ten­tially tak­ing over there from for­mer French test prop Pa­trice Cal­lazo, who will coach Toulon next year.

La Rochelle have ap­pointed four coaches for next sea­son, in­clud­ing for­mer All Blacks lock Ja­son Ea­ton — just re­tired as La Rochelle’s cap­tain.

Gibbes spent a decade in Eu­rope, first go­ing to Ire­land in 2008 as Le­in­ster’s for­wards coach. He was for­wards coach at French club Cler­mont Au­vergne from 2014 to 2017 be­fore mov­ing to Ul­ster as head coach, tak­ing over as di­rec­tor of rugby when Aus­tralian coach Les Kiss was re­placed mid-sea­son.

The La Rochelle squad in­cludes five French in­ter­na­tion­als, along with for­mer All Black Taw­era Kerr-Bar­low and an­other ex-Waikato player in Hikairo Forbes.

From the out­set, it looked like Waikato’s night against Otago. The hosts ap­plied all the early pres­sure to cre­ate a num­ber of chances be­fore winger Sevu Reece (the en­tire com­pe­ti­tion’s lead­ing try scorer) dot­ted down for the first points of the Cham­pi­onship fi­nal.

Mid­fielder Quinn Tu­paea proved a hand­ful in the first half for Waikato and was re­warded with a try.

Otago got on the board through the boot of Josh Ioane, who blasted two penalty goals, but a late try in the half to Matt Lans­down gave Waikato a com­fort­able 19-6 lead at the break.

How­ever, the gap was closed early in the sec­ond half when Otago loose for­ward James Len­t­jes scored in the cor­ner. With Ioane slot­ting the con­ver­sion to bring Otago back within six points, the vis­i­tors were back in the game — for all of seven sec­onds.

Waikato winger Tyler Camp­bell pushed the gap back out im­me­di­ately from the kick­off when Otago’s poorly-judged at­tempt to bring in the ball fell into the Waikato winger’s hands with a clear run to the try­line.

A sec­ond try to Reece mid­way through the half all but ended any hopes of an Otago come­back, which wasn’t made any eas­ier by Waikato dom­i­nat­ing posses­sion.

In the end, the Mooloos were too strong and sealed a wel­learned win and a pro­mo­tion that looked un­likely af­ter los­ing their first three games of the sea­son.

Photo / Lau­ran Robin­son.

In­spi­ra­tional cap­tain Dwayne Sweeney and his Waikato rugby team cel­e­brate af­ter beat­ing Otago in the fi­nal of the Mitre 10 Cham­pi­onship fi­nal at FMG Sta­dium Waikato on Fri­day night.

Photo / Sup­plied

Job well done, Waikato coach Jono Gibbes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.