Ocras take bite out of Sharks

A hat trick of tries on debut by the Wellington rugby league right wing Feoafa’aki Tu’agalu assisted the Orcas to comfortably beat the Taranaki Sharks 50-22 at Wise Park in Wainuiomata on Saturday.    


Before the match began Tu’agalu was down as a non-playing reserve as the 18th player, before sudden unavailability by one of his team mates, meant the St George Club player was given a dramatic late call-up for his representative debut, in what is only just his second season of playing league since leaving Aotea College.  


After narrowly beating Manawatu last weekend, the win has not only allowed the Orcas to take out the Mid Central title, but to qualify them for the next stage by taking on the winners of the Northern and Southern zones.  


The clinical win was effectively set up inside the first quarter when Wellington took advantage of a stiff breeze at their backs and some confused defence, to see them up 18-0 after 17 minutes.  


By the time a further nine minutes had ticked by, Wellington had continued its run by taking the score out to 30-0, which included five successful converted kicks at goal by the fullback Aaron Whitikia 


Sharks as anyone knows will never back down and so it proved inside the last ten minutes when three tries within the space of seven minutes allowed them to trail by a more respectable margin of 14-30 at halftime. 


The try of the game came early in the second half when fast breakaway run at halfway by the Wellington scrumhalf Tamati Davis allowed him to link up with Tu’agalu, who then showed some fine footwork by side stepping his way through three defenders before going over for his side’s sixth consecutive converted try.  


Although Taranaki did occasionally threaten the Wellington line, they were let down by more basic errors and by not having a sliding defence, making an unforced error ten metres from their line and allowing another overlap to occur out wide, the Orcas struck a 50-14 lead with less than minutes before fulltime. 


The last ten minutes of the second half resulted in Taranaki scoring two late tries, in an act of defiance, that was commendable, but a thought of what could have been had they not taken so long to get out of first gear. 


Although disappointed with the overall result, the Taranaki coach Wayne Capper was philosophical about his side’s loss in stating it owned the last 50 minutes of the game by outscoring Wellington 22-20 


“After we had some players out with injury before we travelled down, it meant I had to use two players in the centres in positons they are not used to do and as a result Wellington capitalised on that from the word go and put us under huge pressure to come back from being 30-nil down,” he said. 


Capper also said at present the Taranaki side is currently rebuilding with four players in the side being 18, while another three being 19 years of age.  


“We found out today that our inexperience around the simple things cost us, so it is with that I am sure our young players will come out wiser as a result.” 


Wellington coach Peter Rikiriki felt his side showed more improvement than their win over Manawatu. 


“We have now had seven training runs as a team and although we have players represented in most clubs, we are coming together well as a collective unit. 


“At present we just need to tidy up our transition play from when it goes from attack to defence,” he said. 


Rikiriki felt his second row John Skinnon, scrumhalf Tamati Davis and debutant Tu’agalu all produced strong games in the Wellington jersey, while Capper singled out his captain and hooker Phil Taylor as his side’s most ‘grittiest’ player.  


Scores: Wellington Orcas 50 (Feoafa’aki Tu’agalu 3, Aaron Whitikia 2, Greig Dean 2, Xavier Seal, Zane Wilson tries; Whitikia 7 goals), Taranaki Sharks 22 (Sam Bennett 2, Reagan CoultsIaiah Graham-Hooper, Ricco Falaniko tries; Phil Taylor goal). Halftime: Wellington 30-14. Referee: Noel Woods.


Article by Carey Clements 


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