Takapuna 27 Glenfield 6
Takapuna gave their departing coach, former All Black Blair Larsen, a fitting farewell in the North Harbour premier club final at Albany yesterday. Takapuna scored an emphatic 27-6 win over Glenfield to strengthen Takapuna's claims as Harbours pre-eminent club. It was Takapuna's ninth championship title and they have been the only Harbour club to have won Auckland's Gallaher Shield, having done that in 1940 and again in 1980.
For Larsen, who was involved in a number of Harbour's titles as a player in the mid-1990s, yesterday's victory was especially satisfying. He leaves this week to take up a contract coaching the Amatori club in Catania in Sicily, the town where the 1995 All Blacks (of which Larsen was a member) opened their tour of Italy and France.
Larsen was even more delighted for his players. "I was really rapt for them as it has not been an easy year and we lost a lot of personnel from last year's side," he said.
"I can't say enough for these guys. They really fronted up and to win a club title is still a special thing. There are a lot of players who go through their entire careers without winning a title."
Because of the heavy showers, Takapuna changed their game plan. Their strategy was more forward-based and, to the surprise of many pundits, the Takapuna pack, led by lock Simon Hanlon, gained a decisive edge, outplaying Glenfield in rucks, mauls and scrums.
Takapuna started impressively, gaining a try to wing Steve Skinnon after just three minutes. Although Glenfield fought back against the cold wind for Jonny Hargreaves to land two penalties, they seldom threatened a try.
Jon Elrick's reliable boot and a well-taken try just on halftime by flanker Charles Waide made the score at the break 17-6. That could have been more had Waide, soon after his own try, been able to put unmarked wing Tim Gunn away.
Against the wind Takapuna continued to control the game with Elrick adding another penalty and halfback Jonny Volckman, one of the outstanding players with his sharp running, scoring the final try.
Glenfield's experienced players, halfback Brett Ingham and Hargreaves, did their best to rally their young side but, as Ingham observed: "It was hard yakka."
Glenfield coach, former All Black Walter Little, was proud of his side, particularly as they had come from eighth place on the qualifying round robin. "Takapuna made better use of the conditions and we had no excuses," he said. "But just to make the final has been an achievement we're all proud of."