Rugby: Tauranga wins bridge battle

By Peter White


Mount Maunganui showed they will be contenders when the semifinals of the Bayfair Baywide competition roll around but they were still no match for unbeaten Tauranga Sports on Saturday.

Tauranga's 28-13 win at Blake Park was a classic game of top flight club rugby, with both competitive teams in form and fired up for a classic battle of the bridge.

The difference on Saturday - as it has been all season long - is Tauranga are the masters of taking opportunities when they arise. The first example came after 16 minutes with their first major attacking raid into the Mount 22. Captain Carl Axtens and standout props Kane Haynes and Pingi Tala'apitaga drove powerfully from a tap penalty and, with front foot ball, first-five Paul Morris glided through a gap to score between the posts.

With extras from his boot, Tauranga were out to 10-0, which soon became 15-0, after Mount No8 Chris Elvin dropped a high ball and, after good work from halfback Josh Hall and livewire openside flanker Mitch Greenaway, winger Cameron Jeffries slid over in the corner.

Mount finished the first half strongly, with flanker Sam Gavigan and Elvin making bursts to fire their team.

Quick ruck ball and fast hands from midfielders Zar Lawrence and Malakai Kasina put fullback Troye Elvin in at the corner.

Tauranga Sports lost concentration to start the second spell, gifting a penalty to the Mount which cut the deficit to 15-8. But two quick penalties converted by Morris pulled Tauranga out to 21-8 and the momentum swung back their way.

Steamers halfback Josh Hall then split the Mount defence open with one of his trademark darts around the ruck into open space, before he flicked a pass infield for Nick Thomson to score. Morris converted to finish the game as a contest at 28-8 but the Mount showed the resilience they have fought back with from four one-point losses this season, to finish strongly with a try to prop David Smart.

Mount will regret not using the wind in the second half to get field position, especially as kicking the ball out was in their favour. The only area they dominated was the lineout.

One of the intriguing match-ups was between the Axtens brothers who ended up opposing each at No8. Carl is a certainty for the Steamers and the former NZ Under-20s rep is maturing into a top notch player. But his younger brother Matty Axtens, who made the NZ Under-17 team in 2010, lost little in comparison.

Tauranga's first-five Morris continues to impress with his outstanding goal kicking and punting but his running game has developed during the season.

"I am coming out of my shell more now, getting more game time. Teams think I just pass and kick so I am starting to run more and hit them off target.

"We have exceeded expectations and are going a lot better than I thought. We are 13 games unbeaten and I don't think that has happened before."

Tauranga Sports 28 (Paul Morris, Cameron Jeffries, Nick Thomson tries; Morris 2 cons, 3 pens) Mount Maunganui 13 (Troye Elvin, David Smart tries; Elvin pen). Halftime 15-5.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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