Ngongotahā have finished strong to beat Otūmoetai 44-22 and secure second place on the Bay of Plenty/Coastline Premier Rugby League table.
Midway through the second half, at Puketawhero Park yesterday, Ngongotahā trailed 22-16, but a late flurry of scoring saw them pile on 28 points in 20 minutes to put the result beyond doubt.
The result means they will play first-placed Mangakino in the first round of semifinals next weekend. The winner will go straight through to the final while the loser will have a second chance against the winner of Pacific (third) versus Otūmoetai (fourth).
Ngongotahā had the better of the early play and threatened the Otūmoetai try line on several occasions before Matt Filipo made the breakthrough, scoring next to the posts from close range. The try was converted and Ngongotahā led 6-0.
Twenty minutes in Otūmoetai hit back. Ngongotahā were penalised for a bad play of the ball near halfway, handing the away side an attacking opportunity. Otūmoetai worked their way into the Ngongotahā 20m before creating an overlap for winger Kamariera Loughlin to score in the corner. The try was converted and it was all square at 6-all.
With five minutes left in the half, Loughlin crossed for his second try to make it 10-6. Ngongotahā hit back through Joseph Nuku to make it 10-all.
Minutes before halftime Ngongotahā's Aaron Waiapu kicked a 40-20, giving his side a golden opportunity to take the lead. After a couple of hit-ups Fetaiamauso Tauiliili-Pelesasa crashed over from close range and the home side led 16-10 at halftime.
The first 20 minutes of the second half were a little scrappy and Ngongotahā may feel they were on the wrong end of several refereeing decisions. Ten minutes in, Otūmoetai squared things up at 16-all when centre Detroit Paki bounced out of a tackle to score.
Alex Parker scored to give Otūmoetai a 22-16 lead with 20 minutes left to play.
With about 15 minutes left to play Ngongotahā scored again to make it 22-all and that is when the floodgates opened against a tiring Otūmoetai side.
Straight from the resulting kickoff, Ngongotahā went the length of the field on the back of a break through the middle by Filipo. They shifted the ball left where Harlem Leatigaga-Angell produced an offload to put centre Courtney Marsters over.
Leading 26-22, Ngongotahā were flying, breaking the line at will and putting Otūmoetai under immense pressure.
They added tries to Tai Kapua, Destry Tamai and Karl Hart for a final score of 44-22, which does not fully reflect how hard they had to work for the win.
Ngongotahā coach Paul Nahu said the way his side "stuck in there" showed good character.
"That was a good test today, there's no doubt about it, there was some pretty hard footy out there. We only got them in the last 15 minutes, to be honest.
"It's all a matter of ball possession. When we've got the ball, it's very difficult to stop, they're a big and mobile pack and they're relatively fit as well. But, if you don't have the ball it's a different story, like in the start of the second half today," Nahu said.
Bay of Plenty/Coastline Premier Results
Papamoa 40 Pikiao 20
Ngongotahā 44 Otūmoetai 22
Mangakino 40 Taupō 12
Pacific - Bye
Bay of Plenty/Coastline Premier Table
Mangakino 26 points, Ngongotahā 22, Pacific 18, Otūmoetai 18, Pāpāmoa 9, Taupō 9, Pikiao 6
Saturday, July 21
Mangakino v Ngongotahā at Mangakino
Pacific v Otūmoetai at Pacific