Wharehine Wellsford are top of Northland Rugby’s Southern Districts Premier competition after three rounds, with a convincing 38-0 defeat of Hikurangi at Centennial Park on Saturday.
Played in blustery conditions on a good surface, the game had a controversial opening with Hikurangi having to go to uncontested scrums after losing a front rower to injury in the third minute. Without their usual dominance in the scrums, Wellsford initially had trouble cracking the typically tough Hikurangi defence, but halfback Ross Neal found a way through to score in the twelfth minute after his forwards had worn down their opposites with a series of drives near the line.
Denied after going close on several occasions, lock Sean Sweetman finally crossed the line in the 25th minute, benefiting from some great lead-up work by number 8 Stu Oldfield, and then fullback Matt Wright followed up his own kick to score, after pressuring the Hikurangi fullback and wing into dropping the ball. He converted all three tries and also kicked a penalty to give Wellsford a 24–0 half time lead.
The second half was frustrating for Wellsford as they failed to convert several opportunities into points. The loss of three players through a series of injuries meant they had to rearrange the team, but flanker Quorie-Lee Wilson was unstoppable as he made some damaging runs through the tiring defence. Second five Cam Barbour scored after timing his run perfectly through a gap in the Hikurangi backline, and then wing Ian Neal followed up a break by brother Ross to scamper 30 metres for the final try. Matt Wright converted both second half tries for a perfect kicking day and take the score to 38-0.
Ross Neal and Stu Oldfield were the La Padella players of the day.
The Wharehine Wellsford premier reserve side had their first win of the season with a hard-fought 12-7 win over Hikurangi. Played in the worst of the conditions, the first half was a real tussle with the young Wellsford side having to defend their line for the first 20 minutes, before Hikurangi managed to finally cross their line.
A better second 20 saw Wellsford go close to scoring several times before second five Matty Northin charged down a clearing kick to regather and score under the posts.
The score remained at 7-7 well into the second half, but Wellsford eventually wore down the Hikurangi defence through some great drives by props Harley Hirovanaa and Joel Teaupa and flanker Quorie-Lee Wilson, giving wing Logan Sanders the room he needed to score a great individual try in the corner and take the win.
The La Padella players of the day for Wellsford were Wilson and Sanders.
- Mick Sweetman