Four match-defining tries by Sevu Reece secured Waikato Rugby a Championship final place for 2018, after an emphatic home victory against Northland in the knockout semifinal clash on Saturday afternoon.
Northland came to Hamilton’s FMG Stadium to; not only challenge for a final place but, to also get revenge for a 28-71 defeat at the hands of Waikato a couple of weeks ago. The table-topping Waikato Rugby side was themselves looking to bounce back from losing the Ranfurly Shield to Otago last weekend.
But in a result that might remove any signs of complacency by the Waikato side, Saturday’s result was a demonstration of the incredible qualities of Sevu Reece for one – the individual who in recent weeks himself, survived a career-defining civil case and lost an offshore contract due to his personal life. Thankfully for fans of Waikato Rugby, it did not affect his play on Saturday afternoon.
All those external elements were; fortunately, put aside, as Reece and the Jonno Gibbes coached side managed to focus solely on the task at hand – to reach the Mitre 10 Cup Championship final.
Paul Edwin Bains reports on the match highlights and outcome, for the 2018 semifinal and the ‘show’ put on by Sevu Reece and the Waikato side Saturday.
Sevu Reece helps secure Waikato Rugby a Championship Final
Examing the result, the match saw several key moments which influenced which side would earn the right to play in the 2018 Championship final next weekend.
Northland drew first blood when import Jack Debreczini spotted a gap early on, with Sam Nock backing-up to the scoring. After that, it was all Waikato although they struggled to turn territory and possession into points.
They did even things up with a try but that took nearly 10 minutes of pressure to secure. But, even while Waikato continued to dominate, a quickly tapped penalty by Northland on their own 22 led to a second try that took back the lead. A third try would stretch out a lead which Taniwha fans would be ecstatic over – but the visitors did not hold the advantage.
Waikato had the better of the play toward the latter part of the half, and with a yellow card six minutes before halftime for Nock, it created an opportunity. From the ensuing six meter scrum, Waikato broke through and after the hooter sounded, the returning Sevu Reece scored off a first phase move from the back a scrum. A defining moment, it was 21-21 at halftime, and the visitors could have felt deflated after so much good early work.
The difference in the second half was that Waikato’s pressure turned into points, with a cross-field kick leading to the home team winger’s second try out wide, before Sevu Reece completed his hat-trick shortly after, with a match-turning interception.
With Northland having to chase the game, Waikato changed their tactics and kept kicking Northland back deep into their half. That paid off when Waikato gained possession in the Northland half, and after great patience, and sharing the ball from one touchline to the other, former Otago first-five Fletch Smith broke the line and put Sevu in for his fourth try.
While the home side held the lead, An unlikely comeback looked possible when a ‘chip over the top’ was collected by the enigmatic Rene Ranger created opportunity. Several offloads later, a try was scored and the match appeared finely balanced. But when that was disallowed for a forward pass, any chance of a come back was gone.
The match fizzled out for the visitors, and in post-match interviews, it was clear how disappointed the Northland team were. Holding an early advantage, they will ‘kick themselves’ after relinquishing the lead. Not that Waikato will feel they held full ascendency – but the home side were able to finish off the match better.
Mitre 10: Waikato thrash Northland behind Sevu Reece's four tries https://t.co/bso03L1OQo
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Waikato Rugby earn a place in Mitre 10 Cup Championship final
That is a skill which the visitors lacked, and means that Waikato Rugby can restore some pride when appearing in the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup Championship final; a positive result, after losing the Ranfurly Shield in the later segment of the Mitre 10 Cup season.
Sevu Reece was a major contributor to the result, He is a star, and even with his issues lately due that meant he lost a lucrative offshore contract with Connacht Rugby, the individual is a miracle maker on the field.
For Waikato, the work of the forwards and backs cannot be ignored. Once the home side 2018 gained in confidence, they were able to close out the result. It now means that the ‘MooLoo’ men head to Forsyth-Barr Stadium to challenge Otago for the 2018 Championship title.
Otago v Waikato – Friday October 26. 7:35pm, Forsyth-Barr Stadium
“Main photo credit”
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