Whiti Te Ra top the table
By Carey Clements
An agonizing three year wait finally ended at McEwan Park on Saturday as the Petone Panthers picked up its first Wellington premier rugby league competition win since 2013, in beating the Porirua Vikings 38-18.
The last time the Panthers had won was against the University Hunters and although it collected two draws last year, the road in recent times has been a hard one for Wellington’s oldest league club due to player retirements, transfers and general lack of playing numbers and depth.
It said much for the overall purpose and spirit to the administrators and organisers off the field in the off season as well as for the players on it that have now slowly started to turn the club around into one that over the years has picked up a record 24 premierships since first starting out in 1912.
During its match against the Vikings, the Panthers led the way through some determined sliding defence and excellent offensive runs down the middle which set up play for its powerful outside centre David Lefaoseu to cash in with four tries.
After the teams shared a 4-all score after eight minutes, Petone hit their straps and led 26-14 at halftime before continuing the same way, while only conceding a solitary try in the second half.
Besides the Petone win, the overall emotional win of the day came at the Otaki Domain when the competition newcomers Whiti Te Ra beat the defending Wellington premier champions Te Aroha 36-26.
In a frenetic first half both sides traded points which resulted in a 16-all deadlock at halftime, before the full strength home team began to find some defensive chinks in the Eels, who were missing four of their regular players.
After breaking a toe inside the first five minutes of the game, the Te Aroha loose forward Denzil Hokianga played out the remainder of the game and after switching to hooker in the last ten minutes helped with his side’s late resurge, which in the end had time go against them.
Te Aroha back Mohi Aupouri was a vital points scorer for his side with two tries and four successful kicks at goal.
Another close game resulted in the Randwick Kingfishers beating the University Hunters 40-32 at Naenae Park after the home side led 22-12 at halftime.
Bronson Marino brought up his hundredth premier game for the Kingfishers in style by successfully converting six goals over from seven attempts, while his team mate Axton Daniels went over for two tries from some strong burst through the University defence.
The battle of the big cats on a dusty Wise Park resulted in the Wainuiomata Lions beating the Upper Hutt Tigers 54-28 in an entertaining, fast paced game.
After overcoming some weak defence in the first quarter, the Lions continued to roar for the remainder of the first half to lead 38-10 at the break before Upper Hutt saved its best passage in the second half in an another effort that was left too late.
The St George Dragons had the bye.