Wairoa clubs united in respect on rugby field

'We wanted to show our aroha for both the Cook and Morunga whanau'.

'We wanted to show our aroha for both the Cook and Morunga whanau'.

IN THE THICK OF IT: Wairoa Athletic captain Kurt Taylor in action against Waikohu. He was in the thick of the action against Tapuae on Saturday. Picture by Paul Rickard

Two clubs united in respect . . . and in rugby.

The second 2018 derby match between Roseland Tavern Tapuae and Charteris Choppers Wairoa Athletic at the Sports Grounds on Saturday took on greater significance with the loss of Tapuae player Fabian Cook and 21-year-old Freedom Morunga on Friday evening.

Freedom’s father, Sonny Morunga, played for Wairoa Athletic and Tapuae sides who won the Lew Patterson Cup for Poverty Bay’s senior one championship.

The 33-year-old Fabian, a talented first five-eighth, was on Tapuae’s team-list for the rematch; his younger brother Brody Cook is Tapuae’s manager and younger brother BA Kopa played for Tapuae on Saturday, switching from blindside flanker to the right wing. BA scored the home team’s second-half try in the right corner.

“It was hard to take in, but we wanted to honour them, show our respect and aroha for both the Cook and Morunga whanau,” said Tapuae captain and hooker Wayne Hema, who first played against Fabian as an 11-year-old for Hillneath School against YMP of Raupunga.

“Fabian was a very competitive player, talkative, cunning and an excellent passer of the ball with a dangerous kicking game.”

Wairoa Athletic won Saturday’s game — a physical, forward-oriented battle — 12-10, having led 7-0 at halftime before a crowd of 500.

The visitors’ captain and first-five Kurt Taylor scored and converted in quick-thinking style with a try under the bar off a tap-kick. It was a big play by Wairoa, who remembered how hard they’d had to fight to win the May 5 game 19-10 at Athletic Park. Their opponents had gone into Saturday’s match having lost eight games in a row before defaulting twice.

Although they came within three points of defending champions High School Old Boys, the Saturday after the game against Tapuae, that win in the derby match was — until this weekend — Athletic’s sole victory this season.

The pride, team culture and resiliency of both Tapuae and Wairoa Athletic made a strong impression on Poverty Bay chief executive Josh Willoughby.

“This year numbers, availability and injuries have affected some of our clubs, so the effort that Tapuae made today — in playing their hearts and their guts out — reflected the fact that they were always going to get up for this,” he said.

“It was the most entertaining game of club rugby I’ve seen this year, to the last second. There were players out there who gunned it and played the best game of their lives.”

Among those to impress Willoughby was loosehead prop Jeke Fatafehi, who scrummaged and carried the ball well for a Tapuae tight five who played the whole 80 minutes without a sub. Te Kapua Rewi-Munro came off the reserves bench to replace injured right wing Credence Harrison before the break, later switched to the left wing and scored the home team’s first try to close it to 7-5 in the 50th minute. Wairoa Athletic fullback Isaac Aitken scored for the visitors in the second half. Blindside flanker-cum-right wing BA Kopu scored the last try of the game.

“It felt like a lifetime — not just a month — since we’d played; we weren’t match-fit and so we took our time to set the scrum as we felt we could apply pressure on Athletic there, if we conserved energy,” Wayne Hema said.

“We gave it our best and so did Athletic, but they played a good territorial game, capitalising on the two opportunities they had to score — Kurt converted their first try and that won them the game.”

Athletic coach Jimmy Whaitiri said it was “a good hard physical game” between teams who wanted to win.

“Athletic and Tapuae like brothers, they hate losing to each other,” he said.

“Tapuae had the majority of the ball, and better field position; we just hit them with the shoulder where we needed to hit them, and although we had players still arriving in the 20 minutes before kick-off, and Tapuae didn’t allow us to play to our pattern, our defence just got us through.”

Hema and Tapuae coach Frank King knew on Thursday night that both clubs would field teams for the second-round fixture, although who specifically would start or come off the bench was undecided.

However, on Saturday, Tapuae had eight reserves and Wairoa-Athletic — who were to unable to field 15 to play OBM on June 9 — had a seven-man bench.

The game finished on a stunning note, with Tapuae being awarded a penalty eight metres out from Athletic’s goal-line, eight metres in from the left-side touch. The defending team’s openside flanker Adam Sainsbury was the man caught playing the ball on the ground.

Having checked with Poverty Bay referee Matt Smith that although time was up, he would allow the line-out to take place, a Tapuae front-rower then tapped the ball and cleared to touch. A change to Law 3 of the laws of rugby in 2016 means that if the ball had been kicked into touch directly, the line-out could be formed, but as the ball had been tapped and then kicked out, Smith could not allow the line-out to form. He had no choice: the tap-kick made it impossible to restart. The game was over.

New Zealand Rugby’s No.1 referee Glen Jackson, when told about the incident, said: “Matt made a great decision — he didn’t allow himself to be flustered — and that’s a credit to the referee.”

Two clubs united in respect . . . and in rugby.

The second 2018 derby match between Roseland Tavern Tapuae and Charteris Choppers Wairoa Athletic at the Sports Grounds on Saturday took on greater significance with the loss of Tapuae player Fabian Cook and 21-year-old Freedom Morunga on Friday evening.

Freedom’s father, Sonny Morunga, played for Wairoa Athletic and Tapuae sides who won the Lew Patterson Cup for Poverty Bay’s senior one championship.

The 33-year-old Fabian, a talented first five-eighth, was on Tapuae’s team-list for the rematch; his younger brother Brody Cook is Tapuae’s manager and younger brother BA Kopa played for Tapuae on Saturday, switching from blindside flanker to the right wing. BA scored the home team’s second-half try in the right corner.

“It was hard to take in, but we wanted to honour them, show our respect and aroha for both the Cook and Morunga whanau,” said Tapuae captain and hooker Wayne Hema, who first played against Fabian as an 11-year-old for Hillneath School against YMP of Raupunga.

“Fabian was a very competitive player, talkative, cunning and an excellent passer of the ball with a dangerous kicking game.”

Wairoa Athletic won Saturday’s game — a physical, forward-oriented battle — 12-10, having led 7-0 at halftime before a crowd of 500.

The visitors’ captain and first-five Kurt Taylor scored and converted in quick-thinking style with a try under the bar off a tap-kick. It was a big play by Wairoa, who remembered how hard they’d had to fight to win the May 5 game 19-10 at Athletic Park. Their opponents had gone into Saturday’s match having lost eight games in a row before defaulting twice.

Although they came within three points of defending champions High School Old Boys, the Saturday after the game against Tapuae, that win in the derby match was — until this weekend — Athletic’s sole victory this season.

The pride, team culture and resiliency of both Tapuae and Wairoa Athletic made a strong impression on Poverty Bay chief executive Josh Willoughby.

“This year numbers, availability and injuries have affected some of our clubs, so the effort that Tapuae made today — in playing their hearts and their guts out — reflected the fact that they were always going to get up for this,” he said.

“It was the most entertaining game of club rugby I’ve seen this year, to the last second. There were players out there who gunned it and played the best game of their lives.”

Among those to impress Willoughby was loosehead prop Jeke Fatafehi, who scrummaged and carried the ball well for a Tapuae tight five who played the whole 80 minutes without a sub. Te Kapua Rewi-Munro came off the reserves bench to replace injured right wing Credence Harrison before the break, later switched to the left wing and scored the home team’s first try to close it to 7-5 in the 50th minute. Wairoa Athletic fullback Isaac Aitken scored for the visitors in the second half. Blindside flanker-cum-right wing BA Kopu scored the last try of the game.

“It felt like a lifetime — not just a month — since we’d played; we weren’t match-fit and so we took our time to set the scrum as we felt we could apply pressure on Athletic there, if we conserved energy,” Wayne Hema said.

“We gave it our best and so did Athletic, but they played a good territorial game, capitalising on the two opportunities they had to score — Kurt converted their first try and that won them the game.”

Athletic coach Jimmy Whaitiri said it was “a good hard physical game” between teams who wanted to win.

“Athletic and Tapuae like brothers, they hate losing to each other,” he said.

“Tapuae had the majority of the ball, and better field position; we just hit them with the shoulder where we needed to hit them, and although we had players still arriving in the 20 minutes before kick-off, and Tapuae didn’t allow us to play to our pattern, our defence just got us through.”

Hema and Tapuae coach Frank King knew on Thursday night that both clubs would field teams for the second-round fixture, although who specifically would start or come off the bench was undecided.

However, on Saturday, Tapuae had eight reserves and Wairoa-Athletic — who were to unable to field 15 to play OBM on June 9 — had a seven-man bench.

The game finished on a stunning note, with Tapuae being awarded a penalty eight metres out from Athletic’s goal-line, eight metres in from the left-side touch. The defending team’s openside flanker Adam Sainsbury was the man caught playing the ball on the ground.

Having checked with Poverty Bay referee Matt Smith that although time was up, he would allow the line-out to take place, a Tapuae front-rower then tapped the ball and cleared to touch. A change to Law 3 of the laws of rugby in 2016 means that if the ball had been kicked into touch directly, the line-out could be formed, but as the ball had been tapped and then kicked out, Smith could not allow the line-out to form. He had no choice: the tap-kick made it impossible to restart. The game was over.

New Zealand Rugby’s No.1 referee Glen Jackson, when told about the incident, said: “Matt made a great decision — he didn’t allow himself to be flustered — and that’s a credit to the referee.”

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