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Luisetti Seeds Division 1 - Waihora Make it Third Time Lucky
Article and Photos - Jonathan Leask
Waihora clinched a maiden Combined Country Cup title with a 31-24 win over Southbridge in the Luisetti Seeds Division 1 Combined Country Cup, on Saturday 11th June, at Southbridge.
Twice the bridesmaid in the North Canterbury-Ellesmere-Mid Canterbury rugby competition, Waihora held a 31-3 lead midway through the second half but had to see off a late surge from Southbridge to finally lift the trophy.
The trophy Waihora had to watch first Lincoln and then Methven lift at their expense in the last two years.
Third time around they put themselves in the box seat and with one hand on the trophy managed to hold of a fast-finishing two-time champions Southbridge.
Waihora captain Will Hurst said they had expected the flair of Southbridge to show up eventually and despite the ugly finish, was happy to end up on the right side of the ledger.
"We probably played our best 60 minutes and although it was ugly at the end a win is a win in a final," Hurst said.
The prolific Southbridge, averaging 40 points per game and unbeaten heading into the final, were held to a solitary Shannon Donald penalty with the wind in the first half.
That penalty had Southbridge lead 3-0 before Waihora "chanced their arm" and seized the momentum.
Faced with a kickable penalty, Hurst opted to kick for the corner.
The decision paid off when lock Matt Stone scored the first of his two tries and halfback Harry Kirk converted.
"We back ourselves to score good tries so we chanced our arm, backed our systems and it worked," Hurst said.
Southbridge struggled to string anything together with the one time they were abel to hold onto the ball long enough to threaten the Waihora line, a forward pass ruled out a possible try.
Waihora wing Nick Rhodes scored to start the second half, after fellow wing Bronson Munro drew in two defenders to put him away, before his opposite Ratu Luvenitoga was yellow carded for a high tackle.
In his absence, Stone scored his second and first-five Ben Jamieson scooped up a loose ball to scamper 50m, with Kirk converting both tries to lead 26-3.
When Munro was yellow carded Southbridge couldn't cash in.
From the scrum, number eight Jale Masi went blindside by himself and was bundled into touch, and shortly after they worked a three-on-one overlap only to throw a forward pass.
Instead Waihora showed how it was done when fullback Mark Maitland extended the lead to 28-points with 20 minutes to play.
Down and looking out, Southbridge replacement halfback Cameron Sheat added the spark that was missing.
Jarrod Sheat's try set the comeback in motion and all of a sudden there was belief back in the blue-and-white hooped jerseys.
With Rhodes then yellow card, Donald scored a converted try and Tom Turner's converted try quickly reduced the deficit to seven points.
Some stubborn, albeit nervous, Waihora defence and time running out denied Southbridge a chance at sending the game to overtime for Waihora to finally take hold of the cup on their third attempt.
Waihora 31 (Matt Stone 2, Nick Rhodes, Mark Maitland, Ben Jamieson tries , Harry Kirk 3 con)
Southbridge 24 (Jarrod Sheat, Shannon Donald, Tom Turner tries, Donald 3 con, 1pen)
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