It was a fitting entree to the Manawatū club rugby season that two of the three matches were captured at the death.
Kia Toa’s Alex Boblea kicked the winning penalty in the final act to trump a defiant Te Kawau 28-26 at Bill Brown Park on Saturday.
Last season’s runnersup, Old Boys-Marist, produced two penalties in the final six minutes and a try on fulltime from a rolling maul to upturn defending Hankins Shield champions College Old Boys 39-29 at the Arena.
Kia Toa had rumbled out to 22-7 early in the second spell after scoring four tries and but for impatient attacking on the green line, that might have been it until Te Kawau stormed back with three tries.
* Senior teams primed for another shot at club rugby title
* There’s everything to lose as a rugby coach
* Hankins Shield champions College Old Boys have investment in youth
Kias had opened with a monster scrum and an imperious lineout centred on Turbos lock Ofa Tauatevalu.
They were best bunting up through forwards Malakai Hala-Ngatai from the Hurricanes 20s, hooker Sase Va’a and veteran flanker Bethel Fau’olo, but once they went wide the backs were often sitting ducks.
Te Kawau sent an ominous warning that they loved the loose ball, notably Manawatū fullback Adam Boult, first-five Kody Edwards and quick young wing Tadhg O’Connor.
Te Kawau errors helped Kias’ cause, but they lost three players injured in quick time including Tauatevalu (head knock).
Kia Toa’s dynamic halfback Jakob Rauhihi-Collis snatched a loose ball 75 metres out to set up a spectacular try.
It wasn’t enough though because Te Kawau had lock Taylor Lowe, a Dannevirke dairy farmer, and No 8 Te Atuarere Albert grafting industriously and when the backs cut loose past tiring Kia tacklers, the game seemed theirs when they led 26-25, especially after a Boult conversion from wide out.
A lazy shoulder charge gifted Boblea the winning penalty shot.
In a tight game at the Arena marked by awful handling in the wet and constant knock ons, it seemed until the final 10 minutes COB would pull away and win over Old Boys-Marist.
But OBM starved COB of the ball in the final 10 and first-five Aidan Champion stepped up, one massive kick setting up a try.
In the end the margin was five tries to two. OBM had a slight edge in set play but COB, even without Hurricanes under-20s halfback Jordi Viljoen and threequarter Waqa Nalaga, looked better on attack in the first half without finishing off enough moves.
They had the burly Timoci Seruwalu dangerous in the midfield while another Hurricanes 20s player, first-five Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula controlled the first 40.
When COB’s two old-timers, Andre Taylor and former coach Sonny Waqatairewa, rolled on after halftime, they made a difference. But neither team got away until the final 10 when COB had led 29-26.
The OBM forwards trio of Matene Ruawai, hooker Chris Cairns and flanker Rhys Pedersen were into everything.
Varsity won the inaugural Robin “Digger” Doyle Memorial Trophy with a 40-5 win over Freyberg at Massey University, running over the top of them in final quarter. Doyle, who was involved with both clubs, died earlier this year.
Varisty ruled the lineouts and with a turbocharged Tyler Laubscher making his return from injury off the bench, they had too much firepower for Freyberg.
Freys’ forward pack had some muscle, but they gave away too many penalties and offered little in the backs. Varsity, who led 12-5 at halftime, played with more control and their kicking game kept Freyberg pinned in their end.
Freyberg couldn’t win a lineout as Varsity lock Mickey Woolliams and No 8 Julian Goerke grabbed everything until Woolliams went off in the second half with a lower leg injury.
The students had most of the ball and became more threatening out wide as the game went on.
They were assisted by Freyberg giving away multiple first-half penalties, including when midfielder Sheriff Fetu was sinbinned for an infringment on their line just before halftime.
Freyberg frontrowers Feleti Sae-Ta’ufo’ou and Raymond Tuputupu put some massive shots in on defence and prop Darius Mafile’o made big metres when he took the ball up.
They pushed Varisty back in the scrums in the first half.
Laubshcer made a big impact in the second half, scoring a try almost untouched off the back of a scrum and would have had a second if not for a knock on.
He set up a Scott Davidson try by charging 40 metres off a scrum and offloading.
Elusive Hurricanes 20s fullback Sam Coles looked a good acquisition for Varsity, flanker Joe Tako’s direct runs in the first half gave them front-foot ball and second-five Taiaha Mangu ran hard.
Freyberg’s other standout was workhorse lock-loosie Jekope Kitou.
Feilding had the bye.
Kia Toa 28 (Ofa Tauatevalu, Tevita Asi, Malakai Hala-Ngatai, Alex Boblea, tries; Jakob Rauhihi-Collis con; Boblea 2 pen) Te Kawau 26 (Kody Edwards, Jeremy David, Shaun Lawton-Sue, Kopere Tanoa, tries; Edwards 2 con Adam Boult con) HT 17-7.
OB-Marist 39 (Chris Cairns 2, Rhys Pedersen, Max Harris, Ollie Brosnahan, tries; Aidan Champion 4 con, 2 pen) College OB 29 (Rupeni Tamanikayaroi, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, tries; Armstrong-Ravula 2 con, 5 pen) HT 19-16.
Varsity 40 (Reece Brosnan, Taiaha Mangu, Joe Tako, Tyler Laubscher, Moses Armstrong-Ravula, Scott Davidson tries; Davidson 4 con, Logan Henry con) Freyberg 5 (Sheriff Fetu try). HT: 12-5.
This week’s draw: Te Kawau v OB-Marist, Rongotea; Varsity v Feilding, Massey University; COB v Freyberg, Arena; Kia Toa bye.
Horowhenua Kāpiti results: At Shannon Domain: College OB 43 Shannon 32. At Levin Domain: Rāhui 74 Wanderers 0. At Waikanae Park: Waikanae 23. Foxton 21. Paraparaumu bye.