By Carey Clements
A hat trick of tries to the veteran Te Aroha prop Mikey Nathan kept the Eels momentum flowing at Te Whiti Park on Saturday with a healthy 52-20 win over the Petone Panthers during the third round of the Wellington premier rugby league competition.
Last year the Eels went all the way by convincingly winning the Grand Final over Wainuiomata and if current form is anything to go by, the spirited club from the small Lower Hutt suburb of Waiwhetu looks to again be on track as a title contender.
Besides the power of Nathan in finishing off set plays up front, it had some of its finest execution set up around another veteran in its loose forward Denzil Hokianga, who was making a remarkable 325th appearance for a Te Aroha side since first debuting for the club midway through the 1999 season.
A huge burst of points in the first half effectively set up the win for the home side as they led 34-4 at halftime, before Petone came back in the second spell with 16 points of their own as a result of having fresh bodies power their way through the Eels with a full use of their allotted 12 interchanges, compared to Te Aroha’s six.
Meanwhile the table leader and competition newcomers Whiti Te Ra also showed they were in no mood to take their game lightly by comprehensively beating the Upper Hutt Tigers 68-4, after leading 44-nil at halftime at Whakatiki Street.
From the initial stages, Whiti Te Ra showed a willingness to move the ball out wide, resulting in its wing Aaron Whitikia scoring five tries to take his total already out to eleven from just three appearances.
Overall the example set showed by the Whiti Te Ra captain Manaia Osborne was enough to inspire the Otaki based team, which featured four players on debut.
The Randwick Kingfishers were made to toil in the first half with a 24-10 lead at halftime before opening the flood gates with an overall 68-22 win over the St George Dragons at Naenae Park.
Randwick scored a total of 12 tries during their commanding performance with their winger Laman Ah Wong and substitute prop Abraham Jackson both collecting two tries.
The fourth match was abandoned in a non-result at Kelburn Park after the Wainuiomata trainer Eddie Albright sustained a freak broken leg injury while running out water to his team with 15 minutes of the match remaining.
At the time of Albright’s unfortunate injury, Wainuiomata was leading 28-22 after being 22-16 up at halftime. The match is now scheduled to be replayed at a later date.
The Porirua Vikings had the bye.