WEST OVERWHELM EAST IN NGĀ PUNA WAI REP CLASH
West reclaimed crosstown supremacy with a 32-20 victory over East in a physical encounter laced with sparkling tries at Ngā Puna Wai.
The victory was just West’s second in the fixture – but their second in three seasons since its return to the Canterbury Rugby League calendar. Several candidates from both teams put their hands up for Rockcote Canterbury Bulls selection later in the year.
“The boys talked on Wednesday about losing this game last year and really digging in this year,” satisfied West coach Jed Lawrie said post-match.
“You could see it at training, they pride themselves on representing the West. It’s the sort of game you want to make a big deal about because it means a lot to them – and you saw that in some of our defensive efforts for each other.”
Played on a sunny Queen’s Birthday Monday after storms forced widespread postponements on Saturday, the Ngā Puna Wai surface held up superbly.
West opened the scoring following a sideline break by Halswell winger Nick Evans. Young Hornby centre and West Coast important Regan Stanton evaded the retreating East defence on the next play to dive over.
But East hit back soon afterwards, Linwood’s Danny Latu chiming in from fullback on a sweep play and powering over for a try.
West surged out to an imposing 22-4 lead with three unanswered tries, however. Panthers tyro Caius Faatili, still only 17, underlined his enormous potential with a blistering 40-metre solo try, showcasing his explosive pace off the mark, footwork and strength.
Evans then capitalised on superb quick hands to score via an excellent finish in the left-hand corner.
West’s right-side attack kept the momentum going with a spectacular 60-metre movement. Riccarton centre Zion Kamana sped into open territory before grubbering infield for Hornets winger Tirikatene Taiuru to dot down.
Experienced Keas playmaker Daniel Hartley restricted the halftime damage to 22-10 by barging over from close range just before the break, while clubmate Toi Sepuloni cut the deficit to just six points when he bagged the opening try of the second stanza.
Linwood forward Thoren Fidow-Kele rattled the cages of a few West players with some kamikaze kick-off returns and a string of ferocious tackles.
But West put the result beyond doubt with back-to-back tries. A sharp kick from Hornby and incumbent Rockcote Bulls half Brad Campbell sat up for Kamana to score.
Faatili produced arguably the highlight of the afternoon, scorching 80 metres for his second try with none of the East chasers able to make up ground on the big forward.
Northern Bulldogs winger Richard Tipelu nabbed a consolation effort for East in the dying minutes.
Rockcote Canterbury Bulls coach Andrew Auimatagi and assistant Lawrie were pleased with some of the combinations that flourished despite a short build-up, as well as some standout individual performances.
“We had some senior boys in there (for West), and then a 17-year-old like Caius (Faatili), and David Tongotongo back from Aussie. But on the whole everybody did their job, and I was quite proud of how the bench gave us impact,” Lawrie praised.
“Zion (Kamana) is still finding his way but you can see the potential he’s got. A couple of young forwards from Riccarton (Caleb and Gaius Reweti, and Taulaga Elia) really stood out off the bench for me too.
But from a match with a stack of highlights, the undeniable takeaway was the barnstorming display of Faatili. Even the laconic Lawrie found it difficult to temper expectations ahead of Hornby’s big end-of-season matches and the Rockcote Bulls’ 2019 campaign.
“To move like that with the frame he’s got, he’s got big things ahead of him if he keeps working hard,” the Panthers coach said.
“Guys like that, with unbelievable talent, but they always put their club first. They come through the age groups and they’re special kids. To turn out a performance like that in an East and West game – I’m sure he’ll be doing the same in a Bulls jersey at the end of the year.”
CRL REPRESENTATIVE FIXTURE: West 32 (Caius Faatili 2, Regan Stanton, Nick Evans, Tirikatene Taiuru, Zion Kamana tries; Brad Campbell 4 goals) defeated East 20 (Danny Latu, Daniel Hartley, Toi Sepuloni, Richard Tipelu tries; Hartley 2 goals) at Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub
West also took out the inaugural women’s clash, overwhelming East 38-12 earlier in the afternoon.
The match allowed several players to shine outside of their usual club roles in a key hit-out ahead of selection for the NZRL Women’s Nationals in Auckland in July.