Last year, in the Bay of Plenty's Premier rugby league competition, it was evident from the pre-season tournament onwards that Mangakino Hawks were the team to beat. The form side in the competition throughout, they marched all the way to the grand final in which they were heavy favourites to beat the Ngongotahā Chiefs. However, that is where the wheels fell off as Ngongotahā produced the upset, winning 34-10 to claim the title. On Saturday, Mangakino had another shot at redemption as the sides met at Puketawhero Park. Sports reporter David Beck was there.
The Mangakino Hawks have bounced back from a 46-14 loss to Pacific to hammer the defending champion Ngongotahā Chiefs 40-22.
The rematch between last year's grand finalists at Puketawhero Park on Saturday saw an abundance of attacking prowess on display but it was Mangakino who made the most of their chances and cruised to victory.
The first half was fairly even. The two sides traded tries and 30 minutes in it was Ngongotahā who led 8-6. However, that would be the last time they led - Mangakino scored two tries late in the first half to lead 16-8 at the break.
In the second half, the floodgates opened. There were big gaps in the Ngongotahā defence and Mangakino scored three unanswered tries in about 10 minutes to race out to a 30-8 lead.
Ngongotahā showed fight to score three second half tries and reduce the deficit but never really looked like closing the gap.
Mangakino coach George Samuels said it had been a slow start to the season for his side so to produce such a commanding performance was especially pleasing.
"It was a really good performance considering how we've been going. We've got a few guys back, some have been away, some have been injured. We had a few guys out there playing with the flu - it was a really gutsy effort I thought."
He was impressed by his side's efforts at both ends of the field.
"We had a good attacking game and the line defence was spot on. We got hammered on a few occasions but managed to keep them out. When you're under the pump and everyone's digging in, that is really pleasing."
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While Mangakino had started slowly this season, Samuels had faith they could peak at the right time.
"I'm confident in our team, when we all get back together we'll have a really solid team. I'm just trying to manage injuries, there are guys that want to play but are injured.
"With last year, it was hard to get stuck into a team when you're winning all the time - to try to ask them to improve when you're winning."
Ngongotahā coach Paul Nahu was visibly disappointed after the match and said his side had a lot to work on.
"Defensively, we're nowhere near where it needs to be, that's for sure. There are always some [positives], not a lot, but there's always some. Some guys haven't had an 80-minute blow out for a while and they got through that so that's a positive.
"I think the attack is pretty bad at the moment as well, our shape's not very good. That's due to having a lot of new players so a lot of it is learning the patterns and combinations.
"Little things like that take a while so that's got a bit to do with it on attack but the defence needs a lot of work.
"We have to improve and we have to improve very quickly."
In the other Premier match on Saturday, Taupō Phoenix were in commanding form, beating Pikiao Warriors 48-12, also played at Puketawhero Park.
Bay of Plenty Rugby League Results
Taupō 48 Pikiao 12, Mangakino 40 Ngongotahā 22.
Taupō 24 Pikiao 18, Putauaki 26 Central 16, Pacific - Bye.