Waimate ends Temuka’s reign as South Canterbury club rugby champion

Mud and water flies as Malakai Uasi (holding the ball) of Harlequins struggles to maintain his feet in the conditions during the South Canterbury senior club rugby semifinal against Celtic on Saturday.

AIMAN AMERUL MUNER / Stuff

Mud and water flies as Malakai Uasi (holding the ball) of Harlequins struggles to maintain his feet in the conditions during the South Canterbury senior club rugby semifinal against Celtic on Saturday.

Waimate has stunned defending South Canterbury senior club rugby champions Temuka with an upset 29-8 win and will now play Celtic in the final on Saturday for the Hammersley Cup.

Waimate’s victory at Temuka came on the back of an overwhelming first half performance, leading 26-3 at the break and conceding only one try in the second half.

Temuka’s loss was only its second of the season, after falling to Celtic 30-27 on June 18, and had disposed of Waimate 43-26 and 32-21 in the round-robin games.

Temuka was also chasing a fourth straight title after beating Harlequins in 2021, Waimate in 2020 and Celtic in 2019, which ended Celtic’s run of 10-straight Hamersley Cup wins.

READ MORE:
* Temuka win third straight Hamersley Cup, beat Harlequins in the final
* Temuka beat Waimate 20-18 in nail biting senior club rugby final

Celtic played to the wet and muddy home conditions on the Rockdale Rd ground far better against Harlequins on Saturday to seal its place in the final with a 32-22 victory.

Celtic’s tactics were simple, kicking downfield and applying pressure as Harlequins sought to run the ball back using its big strong-running forwards, but regular handling mistakes in contact situations was its undoing on too many occasions.

Celtic's Natui Saumani Su'a scores a try against Harlequins during the South Canterbury senior club rugby semi-final match against Harlequins.

AIMAN AMERUL MUNER / Stuff

Celtic’s Natui Saumani Su’a scores a try against Harlequins during the South Canterbury senior club rugby semi-final match against Harlequins.

Harlequins put plenty of heat on the Celtic defense, especially in the first half, forcing two goal-line drop-outs and being held up over the goal-line on another occasion but silly errors, or ill discipline, limited their first 30-minute effort to a 3-all scoreline.

Celtic, guided by halfback Willie Wright’s kicking game, on the back of some strong mauling work from the forwards, kept pushing Harlequins back.

Wright’s simple kicking tactics can not be overstated, as he, with support from Hayden Kerr and Jarrad Mannex made Harlequins pay heavily in ground position for their handling errors.

Up front, Celtic had plenty of tireless performers against a far bigger pack in the difficult conditions including hooker Connor Anderson, locks Matt Stewart and Ben Kerr and the veteran loosie Nick Strachan.

Harlequins halfback Jordan Hooke is dwarfed by mud-covered forwards as he looks for the ball against Celtic in the South Canterbury senior club rugby semifinal.

AIMAN AMERUL MUNER / Stuff

Harlequins halfback Jordan Hooke is dwarfed by mud-covered forwards as he looks for the ball against Celtic in the South Canterbury senior club rugby semifinal.

Celtic blew the game apart in the five minutes before half-time and 20 minutes after the break.

Anderson’s first try in the 30th minute gave the home side an 8-3 lead before Celtic, on the back of a 25-meter lineout drive, just two minutes before half-time, finally moved the ball wide for center Zac Saunders to score under the bar and Hayden Kerr converted.

Celtic took its opportunities early in the second half with tries in the fifth, eighth and 20th minutes as the scoreline blew out to 32-3.

The first of those tries went to winger Tom Bikaca who swooped on a loose ball that squirted from a ruck to pick up and race 50m to score in the corner and that was followed by Anderson picking up his second from a lineout drive close the line.

Celtic winger Tom Bikaca scorea a try in the tackle of Desmond Dillon of Harlequins during the South Canterbury senior club rugby semi-final.

AIMAN AMERUL MUNER / Stuff

Celtic winger Tom Bikaca scorea a try in the tackle of Desmond Dillon of Harlequins during the South Canterbury senior club rugby semi-final.

Second five-eighth Natui Saumani Su’a completed the scoring when he broke through in midfield to score under the posts and Kerr converted.

The 32-3 scoreline at that stage did not reflect the Harlequins impact on the game and the momentum swung dramatically in the final quarter on the back of the sinbinning of replacement halfback Sekope Maea following repeated Celtic infringements.

Celtic defenders line up Harlequins first five-eighth Paula Fifita (holding the ball) in the muddy and wet conditions in Timaru for the South Canterbury senior club rugby semi-final.

AIMAN AMERUL MUNER / Stuff

Celtic defenders line up Harlequins first five-eighth Paula Fifita (holding the ball) in the muddy and wet conditions in Timaru for the South Canterbury senior club rugby semi-final.

Harlequins big forwards, spearheaded by No 8 Chris Hala’afia, produced more direct running and cut down on the risky passes to apply plenty of heat on Celtic’s 14-man defense.

The forwards soon made some room for the backs and second five-eighth Malakai Uasi, another Harlequins star, crossed soon after the yellow card and was followed a few minutes later by center Sireli Buliruarua as Harlequins closed to 32-15.

However, Celtic’s defense kept forcing Harlequins mistakes and the visitors’ final try near full-time, was an impressive length of the field effort finished off by winger Desmond Dillon and a conversion by Siona Fa.

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