It was a dominant display across the park for Akarana in what was a must-win game for the reigning premiers to kick off round three of the NZRL Premiership.
Hooker Josiah Afu opened the scoring for the Falcons in the 11th minute, Chase Bernard’s 40 meter run from the kick-off set up Akarana’s second try to Jordan Te Aho. Back to back tries soon followed to Hoani Rogers-Brown and Solomon Vasuvulagi quickly making it 24 – 0.
Some possession to the home side saw Captain Pawhare Brown put Waikato on the board after a strong run through the middle, however, handling errors had the home side under the pump again as Siliga Kepaoa powered over for Akarana’s fifth try. Quickplay the balls from the Falcon’s forward pack put skipper Francis Leger over the line to make it 36 – 6 at the break.
The second half kicked off with a runaway try to Akarana winger Sam Fa’apito after a one on one strip, yet some possession to the home side saw Waikato gain momentum resulting in back to back tries making it 40 -18.
The momentum was short-lived as Akarana kicked into gear with tries to Chase Bernard and Matti Tuitama. Sam Fa’apito went over for his second making it 56 – 18 before David Dyer ran away with an intercept. Darren Kellett-Moore finished the scoring off for Akarana making it 66 – 18 at full time.
Day two of round three saw the Canterbury Bulls and Counties Manukau Stingrays play for a spot in the finals against the Akarana Falcons.
Canterbury will be happy campers coming away with the win 24-22 after tough back and forth contest. There was nothing between these teams, both heading to the tunnels at half time without a single point on the board.
First points came after a fiery start to the second half. The 44th minute saw Counties number 18 Richard Toa’i, finally break the Canterbury defence off the back of a penalty only a few meters from the try line. Counties followed up within minutes, James Dowie scoring in the corner.
The hosts weren’t giving up easily, biting back as they put their first points on the board. The try from Penetito Ilalio would close the gap. Pressure on Counties and frustrations building the 56th minute saw Counties Netane Vi, yellow carded for foul play. Counties then conceded twelve points within ten minutes.
With a full team back on the field, Counties Manukau stormed back to take the lead after two converted tries, leading with only five minutes left to play. Finals were on the line and Canterbury knew it, they would bravely strike back with a last minute try to close the match off 24-22
The Cantabrians send a strong message to their opposition that they mean business in 2019 as they seek to take away Akarana’s long term claim to the Premiership title.
Congratulations also to Wellington Orcas and Otago Whalers who will contest the Championship Final at Nga Puna Wai in Christchurch, prior to the Premiership Final.