League: Epic victory for Pacific

By Alison King

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Tokoroa's Pacific Sharks enjoy the sweet taste of success. Photo / Ben Fraser
Tokoroa's Pacific Sharks enjoy the sweet taste of success. Photo / Ben Fraser

If there was a recipe for a rugby league grand final it would probably look like this: tension, cutthroat daredevilish tackles, sheer tenacity, electric atmosphere, moves that deceive and pure energy.

Saturday's Bay of Plenty Rugby League grand final between Pikiao Warriors and Pacific Sharks had all that and some.

The two sides met in the semifinals a fortnight ago but it was clear Pikiao had taken that defeat, screwed it up and started on a new plan. That plan had them at times looking as if they could cheekily steal the title from Pacific but the Tokoroa team proved in the end to be too determined.

Indeed, the first 20 minutes were Pikaio's for the taking, persistent pressure in the Pacific 20m zone.

A dangerous tackle and subsequent knock-out took Pacific's Ezra Takiri out for the match but it gave Pikiao the chance to get some points on the board with Connor Hohepa scoring an easy penalty.

It would be the only time Pikiao were in front and that miniscule lead lasted mere minutes as Vinnie Morunga capitalised on a lapse in Pikiao concentration.

And then the floodgates opened with another Pacific try and a penalty giving them 12 points advantage.

It would have been easy for Pikiao to throw their hands up and concede defeat but there was still almost an hour' play left and that clearly isn't the Pikiao way.

A cheeky 50m run diagonally across the field from Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi made that clear and when Percy King got to a kick the gap was closing down.

The second half was much of the same at Puketawhero Park- same battering ram styles from both teams, same short, sharp sprints and few mistakes.

When there were errors it was to the detriment of those who made them - at such a big occasion both teams rued their mistakes.

But in the end it was Pacific who came out on top. The final 15 minutes the scorekeeper was kept busy and the gap widened once again to 10 points, then clawed back to six, then to 10 again. A try in the dying minutes from BJ Raroa and conversion by Bully Taiatini left it at 26-30. Close but no cigar.

"You couldn't have asked for a better final," Pikiao coach Doug Unuwai Snr said afterwards.

"We have a winner and a loser. It's hard luck. I take my hat off to my players.

"When a side's getting hammered you can only take so much."

The final was the swansong for Pacific captain Shane Te Kuru who announced his retirement in his speech.

"I've played 24 seasons in the premier league," he told the Rotorua Daily Post.

"I'm 40 this year and enough's enough. This will have to be the ultimate game - to win in my final game is awesome. I was always confident."

Pikiao were defeated in the reserves grade also with Central taking the victory 52-28.

Scorers: Pikiao 26 (Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Percy King, BJ Raroa, tries; Pirikawana Taiatini try, goal; Connor Hohepa, 4 goals) Pacific 30 (Vinnie Morunga, Tamatoa Karora-Reu, Peter Letoga, George Lindsay tries; Ngari Hawkins, try, 5 goals) HT:14-18.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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