By Imran Ali
The Sharks had their noses in front for the most part but allowed Old Boys Marist to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
OBM skipper Noah Cooper was spot on when asked to sum up the match. "Would have been a good one to watch but quite frustrating to play in," referring to his side's 31-30 win over the Western Sharks in Dargaville in Tyrepower premier rugby on Saturday.
Such was the see-sawing nature of the game it needed a theme song. Picking a winner was akin to circling the correct numbers in a Lotto draw.
OBM centre Patrick Elia was absolute dynamite with his line breaks and ball-carrying prowess. He's more death by a thousand cuts - relentlessly ploughing into contact, making solid, hard tackles and that all counted in the end as the visitors hung on for a much-needed win.
For the hosts, locks Kaufononga Tausinga and Tevita Fa'ukafa worked well in tandem to punch holes down the midfield channel and were often the go-to men to eke out those extra metres.
This season hasn't been particularly flash for both teams, winning just two matches from six games, and they will not only need to win their remaining fixtures but pray other results go their way.
Mid Northern and Hora Hora jointly lead the points table, with Kamo nipping at their heels, one point behind.
Two other teams, Waipu and Moerewa, are above OBM and defending premier champions, Western Sharks.
The Sharks will be gutted that having led for three-quarters of the game on Saturday, they allowed OBM to score off a chip kick to take the lead for the first time in the last quarter.
A small but vocal crowd rallied behind the hosts as they hammered away at the OBM tryline with minutes remaining but unforced errors thwarted any try-scoring chances.
"It's a pretty tough one to take. We were our worst enemies, we didn't get into shape and play our own game," Sharks captain Matt Matich lamented.
Although OBM had not been tracking well so far this season, Matich said his players knew the visitors would be tough.
"We were never up by too much and they were starting to get dominance at scrum time once our reserve front row came on and gave away a few too many penalties."
The number of unforced errors, he said, was the result of pushing the pace too much and not trusting their game plan.
His side had the wind in the second half and could have played long and forced OBM out but conceded a number of penalties off scrums and couldn't get clean exits off them.
Cooper said his team had been on the other side of a couple of close runs, so getting a tight win was good.
"Our pack fronted up. We just talked about having some energy, our best player has been a 40-year-old all season and we challenged the boys to bring as much effort as that fella," he said, referring to lock Matt Harrison.
"We felt they were tiring and we were letting them in with those tries quite easily whereas when we were scoring, we were having to work for it. I thought that was tiring them out and then when they took Matthew Matich off, it opened the door a bit for us.
On his side's chances of qualifying for the playoffs, he said: "It's a bit of a long shot but you never know, everyone's beating everyone at the moment."
In the other premier matches played on Saturday, Hora Hora narrowly beat Wellsford 24-19, Hikurangi were thrashed 55-5 by Mid Northern, Moerewa scraped in with a 23-20 win over Kamo and Waipu humiliated Kerikeri 57-14.
Club rugby takes a break this long weekend and resumes the following week when the Sharks host Kerikeri, Wellsford play Waipu, Hikurangi take on OBM, Kamo will attempt to beat Hora Hora to climb to second position, while Mid Northern will be keen to remain on top of the table after playing Moerewa.