Mooloos survive Southland comeback

Waikato has survived a late comeback by Southland to win 30-25 in dramatic fashion at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton tonight.

Credit: Zimbio

The Mooloos can thank Damian McKenzie for his strongest showing yet, maintaining a perfect kicking record and slotting a crucial penalty in the dying seconds to take the Waikato lead out to beyond a penalty.

Waikato ran in three tries, including the second in a week for co-captain Brad Weber, but Southland, to their credit, never gave up and came racing back in the last quarter to nearly snatch victory.

The win is crucial for Waikato and a good bounce back from a disappointing performance last week. Waikato now move up in the ITM Cup Premiership points table.

Waikato tried to play the territory game early in the wet conditions before Elliot Dixon was penalised for tackling Weber too early, but the Stags were let off the hook when the Waikato lineout went awry.

Southland couldn’t clear, and after a second penalty, Waikato opted to keep on the attack with a scrum.

Some good defense kept the Mooloos out as Southland made their tackles, but a third penalty saw Damian McKenzie put the home side up by three.

Jacob Skeen took a knock as Southland immediately went on the attack; the lock was replaced by David Morgan and Skeen went down the tunnel for a concussion test.

Southland had a man unmarked with a clear run to the corner, but Tim Boys couldn’t catch the pass and the try went begging.

Awarded a penalty; Southland drew even thanks to the boot of Lima Sopoaga.

McKenzie sparked an attack from deep in his own half when Southland kicked away possession. The 20-year old cut through the midfield and passed the ball off to James Tucker in support. Tucker was cut down near the try line, ruining what was nearly Waikato’s second runaway try in a week.

McKenzie landed his second penalty of the night to nudge Waikato in front 6-3, and became the leading points scorer in ITM Cup this season so far.

With an advantage and hot on attack, Weber put up a hopeful up and under but weighted the kick perfectly. Sloppy hands from the Southland defender saw the ball come free, and Declan O’Donnell pounced to score the try.

McKenzie converted; Waikato led 13-3.

The Stags were awarded a penalty, and Sopoaga had the distance from halfway to bring Southland closer.

Waikato held a small lead 13-6 at halftime.

The Mooloo men went on the attack as play resumed, pushing downfield with multiple phases before a handling error out wide ended the move. Waikato remained in Southland territory, and Weber took advantage of broken play, penetrating the gap tiny gap and breaking free. Weber was no match for the defense and raced away for the try.

Following McKenzie’s conversion, Waikato led 20-6.

Southland tried to answer back but coughed up possession deep in Waikato’s half. Opting not to take a kick at goal, Southland took play into the corner with an attacking lineout. A handling error ruined the set play, but Waikato being offside handed Southland another penalty.

The Stags secured the ball from the scrum and Lima Sopoaga kicked into the corner, the Waikato defenders weren’t back enough, the ball bounced perfectly into the hands of Keanu Kahukura for the try.

Sopoaga failed to convert, but the Stags were within nine points in Hamilton, 20-11 with a quarter of the game to play.

Waikato answered right back with a try of their own, Dylan Collier scoring his third try in ITM Cup rugby, and Waikato’s third of the night. McKenzie converted again; Waikato led 27-11.

Southland knocked the ball on inside their own half and began to lose their structure as the pressure mounted.

With time ticking away; the Southland forward pushed toward the try line and powered over, but replays couldn’t show clear evidence of a grounding by Dillan Halaholo, however the try was awarded.

Sopoaga converted to make the score 27-18.

Waikato surged after Southland failed to secure the kick off, and in the corner it looked as if Tyrone Te Ruruku had scored, but the referee consulted the TMO for further clarification. Replays showed the replacement hooker was short but there was a question of momentum.

The try wasn’t awarded, and Southland had a penalty as

After four years away from New Zealand Rugby since his famous kick in the 2011 RWC final, Stephen Donald jogged onto the field to a loud applause by the hearty souls at the stadium on a cold and wet night.

Southland were suddenly full of life, and old mistakes on defense from the previous game began to haunt Waikato. Southland capitalised quickly, Kieran Moffat touching down in the corner to bring the score closer again.

Sopoaga converted, and the game was on in Hamilton; 27-25 with five minutes remaining.

Southland were hot on attack, and Waikato were falling off tackles as the visitors charged downfield looking destined to score. Some brilliant work at the breakdown earned Waikato a penalty, and McKenzie cleared Waikato’s line to ease the pressure and keep possession.

Southland were penalised with a minute to play, and Weber gave the ball to McKenzie to kick for goal.

McKenzie didn’t miss, maintaining a perfect record to give Waikato a crucial buffer of five points.

The final hooter sounded as Sopoaga kicked off, and Waikato secured possession to allow Weber to bang the ball away into touch and seal victory for the Mooloos 30-25 at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.

Waikato will face Taranaki next Friday in New Plymouth.

Auckland fightback to thrash Waikato

Auckland has blown past Waikato in Hamilton this afternoon, comprehensively winning 50-28 after surging back in the second half.

Credit: Zimbio

The Mooloos were left to rue a game that simply got away from them; leading at halftime after scoring a brilliant 100-metre runaway try that was arguably the highlight of the ITM Cup so far, only to fall off the rails with a less than average defensive showing in the second half.

In total, Auckland scored 33 points after halftime to Waikato’s 7, showing just how much of a turn around the game took after the break.

Simon Hickey missed an early chance to put Auckland in the lead from a kick close to halfway.

Damian McKenzie scored in the corner after sucking in a defender and penetrating the small gap with his speed to put the Mooloos in front. It was McKenzie’s second try in the regular season, and the young first five converted his own try and Waikato led 7-0 in the early stages.

The Waikato defense did a good job of keeping the dangerous Auckland backline contained in the early stages, shutting down Charles Piutau and George Moala on multiple occasions.

Auckland strung phases together and setup a driving maul off an attacking lineout. The power of the Auckland forward pack pushed closer to the line, and after consulting the TMO, replays showed that Michael Faltialofa had scored a try.

Hickey converted to level the scores.

Akira Ioane broke through the tackle of James Tucker to set himself into space with no Waikato defenders back.

Kaito Shigeno caught the offload as Waikato scrambled back in defense and scored under the posts.

Auckland had a lead of seven following the conversion.

A seventh penalty against Waikato gifted Auckland three points, and the visitors were out to a ten-point lead.

Brad Weber struck at a crucial time for Waikato after a quick tap out in front, and after McKenzie converted, the Mooloos were back to within three points.

As the halftime siren sounded, Waikato turned desperate defense into a remarkable try.

From their own goal line, Weber ripped the ball out of the ruck, and some determined running from Skeen and Tucker kept the counter attack alive. Anton Leinert-Brown broke away, and Tucker found the ball in his hands again, quickly offloaded back to McKenzie, and Leinert-Brown took the offload to score the try.

Akira Ioane was sent to the sinbin for lifting a Waikato player off his feet and planting him down off the ball.

Waikato ran 100-metres to score what was one of the best tries in ITM Cup history.

McKenzie converted and Waikato led at halftime 21-17.

Waikato kept the pressure on early in the second half, Weber broke out from the back of a scrum but had no support. McKenzie nearly caught Auckland napping when he tapped from a penalty and booted the ball downfield, forcing Bryce Heem to track back quickly.

The Mooloos looked more and more likely to score, and an attacking scrum near the line provided ample opportunity, but Auckland had other ideas.

Bryce Heem finally stepped past a Waikato defender and broke away for 60-metres, Waikato couldn’t scramble back in time, Ben Lam powered over for a crucial try for Auckland.

Hickey converted and Auckland pushed back into the lead 24-21.

Waikato began to fall off tackles as Auckland surged downfield again, and Taleni Seu punished the Mooloos defense that came up too quickly off the line, scoring under the posts, and suddenly Auckland had a commanding lead 31-21.

It didn’t take long for Auckland to score again, taking full advantage of poor numbers of defense out wide, and Melani Nanai was in for Auckland’s bonus point try.

A sneaky inside pass from McKenzie set Waikato into space, and Shaun Stevenson was unmarked to score a much-needed try. McKenzie just managed to convert from the sideline, providing some hope for Waikato but Auckland still led by ten points.

Hickey missed a penalty kick from in front that would have sealed the match for Auckland.

With an attacking scrum, and after successive phases of attack, George Moala broke the Waikato defense, sealing the match in the process. The conversion was unsuccessful but Auckland was home and dry.

Mitchell Hunt put the nail in the coffin on fulltime, scoring his first ITM Cup try.

The final siren sounded, and Auckland win convincingly 50-28 in Hamilton.

Waikato hold off Manawatu fightback

Waikato has notched a crucial early-season win over Manawatu 28-21 in Palmerston North this afternoon.

Manwatu fightback against Waikato. Credit: Perform Group

The win puts the Mooloos back on track after a loss in week one.

Performing much more comprehensively in all areas. Waikato utilized their backline and benefit from two great impact performances by returning All Blacks Liam Messam and Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

Discipline was again a concern for the Mooloos in the victory.

Manawatu showed that they are never out of a match, coming back to nearly clinch a late victory.

Shaun Stevenson wasted no time picking up from where he left off in the last game, stepping past four Manawatu defenders to score in the corner with just over a minute on the clock.

McKenzie missed the conversion, but Waikato was out to an early lead.

Manawatu was penalised for not rolling away, then McKenzie put the Mooloos eight points in front with a kick from close to halfway.

Manawatu looked shaky early on, falling off a couple of tackles but the Mooloos kept up the early pressure, passing the ball around, and bringing the backline into the game.

McKenzie took Waikato out to an 11-point lead, slotting his second penalty.

Laim Messam showed how important his experience can be for the young Mooloos side, forcing a turnover after a brilliant counter-ruck.

Manawatu fullback Hamiora Thomas was sent to the sin bin for deliberately knocking down the ball when Waikato had a clean break and a free player out wide.

It didn’t take Waikato long to score with an extra man on the park.

Going down in the tackle, Loni Uhila reached over the try line and planted the ball down on the turf, handing Waikato their second try. After McKenzie converted, Waikato had a big lead of 18-0 with a quarter of the match gone.

Pushed for the first time on defense, Waikato was lucky to not be caught on the left after rushing up quickly.

A prolonged period of attack saw Manawatu begin to dominate possession and territory after Jordan Payne was sent to the sin bin for illegally stripping the ball.Waikato were backed up on their try line but their defense was strong and held out the attack.

At halftime, Waikato led 18-0 at Arena Manawatu.

Waikato were immediately on the attack after the break, but when Messam knocked on, Manawatu counter attacked and a brilliantly weighted kick on the break by Jason Emery setup Manawatu’s first try.

Otere Black converted and the score was 18-7.

Just after getting back to a full playing XV, Waikato were a man down again when Tawera Kerr-Barlow was sent to the sin bin for an illegal knockdown.

Kerr-Barlow would have been kicking himself after an impressive showing prior.

Fraser Armstrong powered over the line, breaking down three Waikato defenders to score Manawatu’s second. Black’s conversion saw the Waikato lead cut to just four.

As they did in round one, Manawatu showed that they are capable of coming back from large deficits and had all the momentum.

Damian McKenzie gave Waikato some breathing room, slotting a penalty to make the score 21-14.

Waikato got a little too ambitious in their own half, McKenzie threw his third forward pass of the game to hand possession to Manawatu on the try line, but Manawatu knocked on and the opportunity went begging.

Good kicking from McKenzie and Weber shifted the game back down onto the Manawatu try line.

McKenzie slicked through the last line of Manawatu defense to score and all but put the game beyond the home side. Following the conversion, Waikato was out to a 14-point lead with the last period of the game remaining.

It was McKenzie’s first try in regular season ITM Cup competition.

Manwatu inched closer with a Nathan Tudreu sideline tippy toe, grounding the ball down, and after sending the decision upstairs, the try was awarded.

On the sideline, Black struck the kick perfectly to bring the deficit back to seven.

A certain try was lost for Manawatu when Black’s pass flew over the head of a free receiver, but Waikato were not out of the woods when Declan O’Donnell was tackled near his own try line as the Mooloos struggled to clear.

One last chance with running ball presented itself to Manawatu and the Turbos opted for an attacking scrum ten metres out. Moving forward with the ball, Manawatu came within inches of scoring, but the ball became trapped in the ruck.

The referee blew his whistle, and the game was over.

Waikato narrowly held on to be 28-21 winners in round two ITM Cup action over Manawatu.

Experience could prove critical for Waikato

The Mooloos wont be lacking in motivation to beat Manawatu as two of their seasoned campaigners return for a rare appearance in ITM Cup rugby.

Liam Messam returns to ITM Cup. Credit: Planet Rugby

Manawatu are defending ITM Cup Championship division champs and will again be a big challenge for Waikato.

Liam Messam makes his first appearance in Mooloos colors in four years, and Waikato will be counting on his experience being critical at the breakdown, an area of concern last week.

Having Messam in the run on side will be a great motivator for the youngsters in the forward pack to perform.

If Waikato is to beat Manawatu away from home, wingers Joe Webber and Declan O’Donnell need to be injected into the game. The ball needs to be thrown across the field to put the talented wingers into space with covering support.

Captain Whetu Douglas needs to be more disciplined in the ruck.

The front row packs a little more experience with Loni Uhila starting, and coach Sean Botherway has given a lot of faith to James Tucker who starts after debuting off the bench last week.

Tucker is rated highly but has been marred by injuries throughout the last year.

Last years fixture between the two sides saw Waikato narrowly lose 22-20 after being in a position to win the match late with numbers free on the wing, but the keen Damian McKenzie decided to run the ball himself and ended up being penalized in the ruck.

Waikato should have won that game, and McKenzie will be desperate for a strong showing as the looming return of Stephen Donald lingers.

It has been five years since the Mooloos beat Manawatu away from home, the performance last week has been forgotten fast, but Waikato need to be very wary of Manawatu’s ability to comeback fast from deficits.

Manawatu nearly shocked Counties Manakau last week with a thrilling comeback, losing by just a single point.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow will have much to prove in a rare Mooloos outing as the halfback sits around third or fourth in the race of All Black number nines wanting to go to the World Cup next month.

Today’s match could be Kerr-Barlow’s last chance to impress All Black selectors.

Tasman beat Waikato with superior attack

Tasman has left Waikato Stadium with a bonus point victory after beating Waikato 35 – 20.

(Photo credit: Pink Rugby via Google Images)

The Mooloos kept themselves in the fight for much of the match, but a perfect kicking record by Tasman first five Marty Banks, coupled with some weak defense, saw the Makos run away with the win late in the game.

Shaun Stevenson scored on his Mooloos debut, but a frantic, unstructured backline prevented Waikato to seriously test Tasman’s defensive system.

Damian McKenzie put Waikato in front early with a beautifully struck kick from inside his own half.

The penalty count was high early in the game, and it continued through the match. Both teams constantly made many poor decisions at the breakdown and with running ball.

When Tasman were penalised again, McKenzie slotted his second, and the Mooloos had a 6-0 lead.

Marty Banks got Tasman on the board with three points after slotting a penalty from directly in front.

McKenzie showed his will to challenge the line and nearly sliced through the Tasman defense. With a little help from the ball bouncing off both uprights, McKenzie restored Waikato’s lead to six from a penalty attempt out wide.

Match officials missed Ben Tameifuna clobbering Marty Banks off the ball.

When Tasman opted to go to the line instead of kicking from a penalty, it paid dividends. The Makos had numbers free on the left, and quick hands from Quentin MacDonald aided Liam Squire to power over in the corner for the first try of the match.

Marty Banks converted the try with a brilliant kick, and Tasman pushed in front 10-9.

Makos captain Shane Christie scored shortly after as Waikato fell apart and were pushed over their own goal line from a rolling maul; Tasman were out to a 17-9 lead.

Tasman went into the sheds leading at halftime.

The second half began with a kicking contest with each side fighting for territory. Damian McKenzie inched Waikato closer, slotting his fourth penalty; the Tasman coaches would have been highly annoyed at such a careless penalty out in front on top of the already high penalty count.

On debut for Waikato, Atu Moli was penalised for a high tackle, and Tasman took full advantage as Marty Banks maintained his perfect kicking record, and the Makos led 20-12.

McKenzie slotted another penalty, and Waikato pushed back to within five.

Tramping back on defense, Waikato began slipping off some crucial tackles, and Peter Samu broke through the final wall defending the tryline with ease, scoring near the posts as Tasman put a solid stamp on the game, leading 25-15.

A sensational pass mid tackle by McKenzie set Joe Webber into space, but Waikato managed to blow what was a certain try. Replays showed a hand on the ball by Marty Banks, and the Makos playmaker was sent to the sin bin after the TMO ruled a deliberate knock on. Waikato went to the line but were much too frantic on attack, passing the ball with no accuracy and not being patient enough to assess the whereabouts of the Tasman defense.

On his debut, Shaun Stevenson scored in the corner after Waikato nearly again blew an attacking opportunity.

Waikato got right back in the match with a player advantage for the next period of play.

The backline wasn’t in sync for Waikato, and playmakers were trying to create counter attacks out of nothing, losing ground and getting behind the advantage line. Stevenson made good ground with his punt, but with time ticking away, Waikato weren’t in the right field position to launch an attack.

Once Tasman were restored to their full playing XV, a penalty put the Makos in a position to put the game away with an attacking lineout.

Scrambling on defense, Waikato gave away a penalty, and Marty Banks all but sealed the deal, kicking another three, and Tasman were out to two possession lead.

Trying to get out of their zone, Waikato threw some ambitious passes, and the ball slipped back into the hands of Tasman. The Makos had all the momentum on the try line, and Jimmy Cowan scored on the fulltime hooter, giving Tasman a bonus point.

Tasman leave Hamilton with a strong victory over Waikato 35-22.

Mooloos reveal 2015 ITM Cup squad

Waikato has announced a well-balanced squad for the 2015 ITM Cup season beginning in August.

(Photo credit: Zimbio via Google Images)

The squad features a good balance of uncapped talent and returning players from Super Rugby.

Bryn Gatland will be the Mooloos back up to Damian McKenzie at first five after coming off a strong season with Hamilton Old Boys in club rugby. Gatland was around the Mooloos squad last season but never made it onto the field.

One notable selection is fullback Shaun Stevenson who was an exciting part of the New Zealand School’s side last season.

Ben Tameifuna will play in what is likely to be his last season with the Mooloos as his departure to France draws closer.

The WRU say that Liam Messam’s availability will be determined by his All Black commitments and Tawera Kerr-Barlow is expected to miss some of the ITM Cup due to international duties.

Harrison Levien is the third string halfback for the Mooloos.

The squad announcement put some rumours around the traps that Ross Filipo would be involved in 2015 to bed.

Joe Webber is expected to miss most of the season due to Sevens commitments, but much spotlight will be on the performances of Declan O’Donnell on the wing partnering with Regan Whare who has played superbly for Hamilton Old Boys this year.

Jacob Skeen also returns to the Mooloos fresh off a stint with the NZ Maori.

The full Waikato ITM Cup squad for 2015:

Forwards

Ben Tameifuna (Suburbs)

Loni Uhila (Hamilton Marist)

Josh Hohneck (Fraser Tech)

Atu Moli (University) *

Tau Koloamatangi (University) *

Hame Faiva (University)

Michael Mayhew (Hautapu) *

Jacob Skeen (University)

David Morgan (University)

James Tucker (Hamilton Marist) *

Whetu Douglas (University)

Zane Kapeli (Hamilton Marist)

Liam Messam (Hautapu)

Mitch Jacobson (Hautapu) *

Murray Iti (Otorohanga) *

Josh Tyrell (Hamilton Marist)

Adam Burn (Hamilton Old Boys)

Backs

Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Hautapu)

Brad Weber (Morrinsville Sports)

Harrison Levien (Hamilton Marist)

Damian McKenzie (University)

Wharenui Hawera (Hamilton Marist)

Bryn Gatland (Hamilton Old Boys) *

Dylan Collier (Otorohanga)

Jordan Payne (Hamilton Marist)

Anton Lienert-Brown (University)

Chauncy Edwardson (University)

Declan O’Donnell (Melville)

Regan Ware (Hamilton Old Boys)

Joe Webber (Hamilton Marist)

Johnathan Malo (Hamilton Marist)

Shaun Stevenson (Hamilton Old Boys) *

Not considered due to injury

Brian Alainu’uese (University)

Luke Katene (Hautapu)

* = denotes uncapped player