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Tough start for defending champs

Tuesday 29 April 2014

The Waitara Bears opened their season with a hard-fought 29-22 win over Western Suburbs Tigers in front of a large crowd at New Plymouth’s Ngamotu Domain last Saturday.

The defending champions had to battle hard against a committed Tigers lineup keen to show off their early pre-season form.

In what turned out to be a fascinating and entertaining arm wrestle, both teams sized each other up in the first 10 minutes with some big hits and at times ill-discipline around the ruck area testing the patience of referee Alan Jackson.

The game settled into a good spectacle when twice in 10 minutes the Bears worked slick moves down the left flank to create tries to left winger Chance Te Uira and centre Paul Tuuta.

To their credit, the Tigers rallied with a try to hooker Travell Ngatoko after a darting run from dummy half.

Soon after, Tigers’ big bench forward Dylan Haggart crashed over for a well-taken try to level the scores at 12-12.

A piece of Cruz Rauner magic created a try out of nothing for Andre Kauika when he chipped over the top regathered and fed the winger who scored under the posts. Right on halftime, Rauner slotted a neat field goal to give the Bears a 19-12 lead.

Early in the second half, the Bears worked play to the left which resulted in Tuuta showing all his power and determination to score his second try to extend the lead to 23-12.

The Tigers responded with a converted try to Sione Sifa after a strong burst to make it 23-18 but missed two other tries – the first by losing the ball near the line and the second by not going wide on the last play.

With 10 minutes remaining, impressive Bears standoff Trask Daymond scored a sneaky try under the posts to extend the Bears lead, with the Tigers having the last say when winger Arana Haenga scored in the corner.

Players to stand out for Waitara Bears were second rower Jarrod Morfett along with hard-working forwards Coltan Tamati and Henare O’Carroll. Best of the backs were Rauner, Tuuta and Daymond.

For the home side, Ngatoko and lock Sam Bennett were always threats.

The Bell Block Marist Dragons had far too much firepower for the Hawera Hawks turning up the heat to score a convincing 76-8 win in Hawera.

After a season out of the game, the Dragons came back strongly against last year’s beaten finalists, who were having their first outing of the year.

The Dragons scored 13 tries including hat-tricks to Aidan Prestney and Dylan Halls, with Halls kicking eight goals and Taani Prestney four.

On Saturday, the Western Suburbs Tigers take on the Hawera Hawks at Ngamotu Domain, with the Marist Dragons up against the Coastal Cobras at Bell Block’s Hickford Bell Block. The Waitara Bears have the bye.

- © Fairfax NZ News