Winger Devon Flanders was the hero as Hastings East won the "Battle of Hastings" at the Ross Shield rugby tournament in Napier yesterday.
Flanders scored a try two minutes into injury time to give Hastings East a 17-15 win against another previously unbeaten side, defending champions IMS Payroll Hastings West, at Napier's Park Island. Hastings East led 12-10 at halftime and West were ahead 15-12 with five minutes left in the feature day-three game at the 111th annual Wattie's tournament.
"This was junior rugby at its best. Even if we had lost we wouldn't have been disappointed," East manager Hayden Kennedy said as his troops collected the Bill Mathewson Memorial Trophy, always at stake when the two sides meet during tournament week.
Flanders, fellow winger Reno Jardine, fullback Humphrey Shields, first five-eighth Shamara Brooks, second five-eighth Denon Robinson and halfback Ngatai McClutchie were all classy in the winning backline. Openside flanker Quentin Doran had a phenomenal workrate for the East pack.
West coach and former Magpies first five-eighth Ross McLeod agreed the match was "the game of the tournament to date".
"We're proud of all of our boys. They got stuck into everything. At the same time they learnt a big lesson about games lasting 50 minutes at this tournament ... it was cruel and they are a bit upset but they will get over it," McLeod said.
West's frontrow of hooker Damarus Hokianga-Heather and props Jakob Gazzard and Josh Combs functioned well while second five-eighth Nafe Noa and centre Jazz Poipoi combined well on defence.
Regular Napier winger Mithias Te Pou switched to prop and still scored three tries as the hosts walloped Dannevirke 60-0 to retain the Steve Cottrell Memorial Cup. Captain Robbie Brigham also grabbed a hat-trick to take his try tally after three games to 10 and with another five conversions Brigham has scored 92 points in 150 minutes of play.
No8 Jack Vaimoli and prop Heath Miller were prominent in the Napier pack. Halfback Daniel Sharplin and second five-eighth Tyler Crosby were constructive in the Napier backline.
Openside flanker Jacob Stephenson and centre Jay-Dee Lilo Broadbelt made the most of their limited opportunities on attack for Dannevirke.
Silver Fern Farms Central retained the Tino Amato Trophy by drawing 5-all with Wairoa. As the score indicates, this match was just as tight as the East-West clash.
"Both teams played well. We were unlucky we missed a penalty which could have given us the win," Central manager Harriet Kuru said.
Tryscorer and No8 David Parker was inspirational in the Central pack, while halfback Alex Hill and winger Leo Green Renata were lively in the Central backline. All of the Affco Wairoa players deserved praise for their defensive work.
Lock Jason Thornton and No8 and tryscorer Tana Culshaw-Kaisa were a powerful pair in the Wairoa pack. Second five-eighth Nikora Smith was the best of the Wairoa backs.