Local star leads 'mongrel' rebound

By Kelly Exelby

He wanted to be an All Black but in terms of a compromise, yesterday was pretty sweet for Mount Maunganui surf lifesaver Andrew Newton.
The 24-year-old was at the heart of a massive revival from the New Zealand team in the DHL International International Challenge at Main Beach. Although the Kiwis were again beaten by arch-rivals Australia, Newton grabbed three wins in the second test as the home side showed far more grit on the beach.
"We had a good debrief on Monday evening and Tuesday and we talked about getting a bit more mongrel in us," Newton said. "We were there but maybe we were just lacking that smidgeon of attitude or energy. We didn't want to make it easy for them and that happened for a lot of us today. It's a really cool feeling."
Newton helped win the tube rescue and beach relay with his teammates and had a memorable race in the mixed board teams race to finish second.
But the undoubted highlight was chasing down Aussie ironman star Hugh Dougherty - a recent winner on the Kellogg's Nutrigrain series - in his specialist board race. It was a performance dripping in guts and character and gave a massive confidence boost to the rest of his team.
"I had a humming start and Spindles [Mount coach John Bryant] told me if they tried to come over on my wash, gas it and make life hard for them," Newton said. "Hugh took me in the end and I was a bit gutted, but coming home I stayed on his tail and wasn't going to let him go. When I got the wave in, I knew I had a good finish in me and I'd studied the shape of the beach and just went nuts."
Australia took out the test by 106 points to 102, but unlike Monday's 18-point trouncing, they didn't have things all their way.

New Zealand's sprinters dominated, with Morgan Foster and Chanel Hickman winning both beach flags events, while Nikki Cox also won the women's board.
Kirsty Wannan, Maddie Boon, Ayla Dunlop-Barrett and Teneale Hatton combined to win the women's tube rescue, while the champion Titahi Bay boat crew all but took out their test series against Australia's Whale Bay with two wins in the three races yesterday, needing just one more win in tomorrow's third test to claim the overall win.
Foster's triumph was another highlight, with the 35-year-old Hamilton firefighter turning back the clock to hold off Australian young guns Ben Mispelhorn and Tommy Nolan. It capped a remarkable return for Foster, who last competed for his country at the 2006 world championships.
"Five years have been a long time, but this feeling I've got right now was what kept me going," a tearful Foster said after winning. "It's everyone's dream to wear your country's colours and to get first place and competing with all my teammates and being part of the New Zealand squad is the best feeling."
But Australian captain Shannon Eckstein warned that things will again get tougher for the home side in tomorrow's last test. "We raced really well on day one but a few things didn't go our way today and we were a little bit complacent in some areas," Eckstein said. "We're definitely going to go all-out on Friday and put out our best combinations. We want to dominate."
New Zealand again had to fare without top ironman Daniel Moodie, who still has an injured hand and is in doubt for tomorrow's test.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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