'We are the champions'

Paikea Whalers win grand final against Seeka Falcons

Paikea Whalers win grand final against Seeka Falcons

The classic “We are the Whalers” cry rang out after Paikea Whalers won the Gisborne Tairawhiti club rugby league grand final 32-20 over Seeka Falcons on Saturday. The victorious team shot features Villiami Kavai holding a photo of Whalers proud Lionel “Smoothie” Haapu, who passed away in January.
Moses Christie crosses for one of his two tries. Pictures by Liam Clayton
Rugby League Final Whalers v Falcons - Trent Profitt, Viliami Kavai, Tawhai Tanirau

RUGBY LEAGUE

AFTER losing twice to Seeka Falcons in the Gisborne Tairawhiti club competition, including the 1 v 2 second-life semifinal, Paikea Whalers won the one that counted . . . the grand final.

The Whalers saved their best for last and made it back-to-back Dave Ahu Memorial Trophy victories with a 32-20 win at Awapuni Sports Stadium on Saturday.

Whalers co-coach and player Daniel Taituha said it was a hard-fought game to the end and could have gone either way.

“A lot of credit has to go to all our young and, some of them, first-time league players — Kereama Tupae-Leach, TK Reihana, Kanawa Tapare, Salesi Niuvao, Villiami Kavai, Keanu Wainohu-Kemp, Tyla Henare, Rylan Tuwairua-Brown, George Halley, Shyann Wyllie, Moses Christie and Stuart Leach.

“They stood up to the occasion and to the bigger Falcons pack.”

Fellow player/co-coach Chris Brown said it was an awesome game — “physical and fast with momentum shifting both ways”.

“The Falcons kept coming at us and never gave up, but the young boys held their own and kept the pressure on right until the final whistle.

“I’m very proud of our team and always knew they could do it.”

Fullback Christie and centre Wainohu-Kemp each bagged two tries.

Kavai sealed victory with a try five minutes from the end, having only minutes before gifted the Falcons possession 20 metres from the tryline with the Whalers ahead 26-20.

The Falcons gave possession back early in the tackle count and after the forwards carted the ball up the middle, Kavai made amends by fending off several defenders and scoring close to the posts.

Whalers stand-off Cory Reihana added the conversion, one of his four successful kicks on the day.

Halfback Maru Leach opened the scoring with a try after five minutes, converted by Reihana.

Twelve minutes later it was 12-0 when Wainohu-Kemp crossed for the first of his double, Reihana again adding the two points.

Both tries came after the Whalers kicked early in the tackle count, catching the Falcons by surprise.

The Falcons hit back with a try to Turupa Green and the sides headed to the break separated by eight points.

A fired-up Falcons hit the ground running in the second half.

Two tries to Trent Proffit, one converted by Marquand Samuels, put them 14-12 ahead and it was game on in front of a vocal crowd of more than 200.

Momentum swung back the way of the Whalers through astute kicking by halves Reihana and Maru Leach, and strong running by the pack.

They regained the lead with a Christie try midway through the half, then he struck again and Reihana’s conversion put them 22-14 up.

Both tries came on the back of solid forward play as the Whalers competed their sets of six.

Wainohu Kemp then showed why the North Queensland Cowboys have given him a two-year contract when he climbed high to gather in a Reihana kick to score.

The Falcons stopped the rot with a try to Bernard Nepe, converted by Samuels.

This closed the deficit to 26-20 before the dramatic last five minutes.

Falcons coach George Tanirau praised the performances of both sides in what was a fitting finale to the club competition.

“Both teams played with a lot of passion as you would expect in a grand final,” he said.

“It was a good advertisement for local rugby league and I congratulate the Paikea Whalers for their win, and the Gisborne Tairawhiti rugby league board and all the supporters who turned up and made it a great atmosphere.”

RUGBY LEAGUE

AFTER losing twice to Seeka Falcons in the Gisborne Tairawhiti club competition, including the 1 v 2 second-life semifinal, Paikea Whalers won the one that counted . . . the grand final.

The Whalers saved their best for last and made it back-to-back Dave Ahu Memorial Trophy victories with a 32-20 win at Awapuni Sports Stadium on Saturday.

Whalers co-coach and player Daniel Taituha said it was a hard-fought game to the end and could have gone either way.

“A lot of credit has to go to all our young and, some of them, first-time league players — Kereama Tupae-Leach, TK Reihana, Kanawa Tapare, Salesi Niuvao, Villiami Kavai, Keanu Wainohu-Kemp, Tyla Henare, Rylan Tuwairua-Brown, George Halley, Shyann Wyllie, Moses Christie and Stuart Leach.

“They stood up to the occasion and to the bigger Falcons pack.”

Fellow player/co-coach Chris Brown said it was an awesome game — “physical and fast with momentum shifting both ways”.

“The Falcons kept coming at us and never gave up, but the young boys held their own and kept the pressure on right until the final whistle.

“I’m very proud of our team and always knew they could do it.”

Fullback Christie and centre Wainohu-Kemp each bagged two tries.

Kavai sealed victory with a try five minutes from the end, having only minutes before gifted the Falcons possession 20 metres from the tryline with the Whalers ahead 26-20.

The Falcons gave possession back early in the tackle count and after the forwards carted the ball up the middle, Kavai made amends by fending off several defenders and scoring close to the posts.

Whalers stand-off Cory Reihana added the conversion, one of his four successful kicks on the day.

Halfback Maru Leach opened the scoring with a try after five minutes, converted by Reihana.

Twelve minutes later it was 12-0 when Wainohu-Kemp crossed for the first of his double, Reihana again adding the two points.

Both tries came after the Whalers kicked early in the tackle count, catching the Falcons by surprise.

The Falcons hit back with a try to Turupa Green and the sides headed to the break separated by eight points.

A fired-up Falcons hit the ground running in the second half.

Two tries to Trent Proffit, one converted by Marquand Samuels, put them 14-12 ahead and it was game on in front of a vocal crowd of more than 200.

Momentum swung back the way of the Whalers through astute kicking by halves Reihana and Maru Leach, and strong running by the pack.

They regained the lead with a Christie try midway through the half, then he struck again and Reihana’s conversion put them 22-14 up.

Both tries came on the back of solid forward play as the Whalers competed their sets of six.

Wainohu Kemp then showed why the North Queensland Cowboys have given him a two-year contract when he climbed high to gather in a Reihana kick to score.

The Falcons stopped the rot with a try to Bernard Nepe, converted by Samuels.

This closed the deficit to 26-20 before the dramatic last five minutes.

Falcons coach George Tanirau praised the performances of both sides in what was a fitting finale to the club competition.

“Both teams played with a lot of passion as you would expect in a grand final,” he said.

“It was a good advertisement for local rugby league and I congratulate the Paikea Whalers for their win, and the Gisborne Tairawhiti rugby league board and all the supporters who turned up and made it a great atmosphere.”

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