A "hungry" Taradale Rugby and Sports captain and prop Namatahi Waa produced an inspirational display today as he led his team into next Saturday's Hawke's Bay Maddison Trophy premier final.
He scored two tries, had a huge defensive work rate, was powerful on the carry and composed during the Mighty Maroons 31-24 semi-final win against Napier Old Boys Marist at the Tareha Recreation Reserve.
"I was hungry after missing last last year's semi-final and final," Waa (pictured above left) said afterwards.
"While I'm happy with our side's effort the Marist boys showed their class with their comeback. I always knew it was going to take an 80-minute effort from us," Waa explained.
Powerful No 8 Iakopo Mapu (pictured above right) was always a threat on attack and destructive on defence. Blindside flanker Josh Eden-Whaitiri was full of authority at the lineout and reception time while openside flanker Nathan Tweedy can be proud of his work rate.
Napier Old Boys Marist coach Ellery Wilson was proud of the manner in which his troops fought back from a 31-10 deficit but agreed Taradale's defensive work prevented his lads flow for long periods. He was rapt with the depth within his squad in the build-up to next season.
Fullback Liam Edwards in his 100th appearance and winger Michael Buckley, who scored two tries, were enterprising. Halfback and vice-captain Zach Donaldson (pictured above centre) impressed with his distribution and options.
All of the NOBM forwards deserve praise for their never-say-die approach against a superior pack.
Taradale Rugby and Sports 31 (Namatahi Waa 2, Gene Syminton, Nathan Ramsay, Lolani Faleiva tries; Brad Truesdale 3 cons), Napier Old Boys Marist 24 (Michael Buckley 2, Hannon Brighouse tries; Jonty Stewart 2, Bain Champion cons; Champion pen). HT: 12-7.
HASTINGS 38 CLIVE 19
Hastings Rugby and Sports manager James Rosenberg praised the defending champions "guts and character" after this semi-final victory at Elwood Park.
Magpies prop Jason Long was unavailable for the hosts and openside flanker Fale Matamata was sin-binned in the 15th minute for a professional foul. Both teams scored a try each while Matamata was of the field.
However, Rosenberg was quick to acknowledge how big a blow Maori All Black, Hurricanes and Magpies lock Isaia Walker-Leawere's 36th-minute departure was for Clive Rugby and Sports with a shoulder injury. Walker-Leawere was having a superb game at No 8.
"Our scrum functioned well and our goal-line defence was massive," Rosenberg said.
Hurricanes centre Danny Toala (pictured above, photo Chris Kiely) scored two tries for Hastings. Tighthead prop Dennis Tapusoa, lock Emil Crichton and Matamata were all prominent in the Hastings pack.
Winger Gideon Kautai and halfback Connor McLeod were the pick of the Hastings backs.
Clive manager Dean Hales agreed Walker-Leawere's departure hurt.
"This game reflected our injury-ridden season. We were never able to put a full-strength side out and today three Magpies [Tiaan Falcon, Josh Kaifa and Anzelo Tuitavuki] were all unavailable," Hales explained.
Co-captain and openside flanker Karetai Williams, blindside flanker Joe Fuimaono, hooker Nick Agnew and lock Jay Tuivaiti were all influential figures in the Clive pack with Walker-Leawere. Hales said the Clive backs didn't fire.
Hastings Rugby and Sports 38 (Danny Toala 2, Jayden Rihia, Gideon Kautai, Ausage Fomai, Miracle Lolofie tries; Connor McLeod 4 cons), Clive Rugby and Sports 19 (Zac Southwick, Lolagi Visinia, Te Kahika Thompson tries; Tianua Poto 2 cons). HT: Clive 14-12.