Waihora take out country title

by Kent Caddick

Waihora has been crowned Canterbury Country rugby champions after a pulsating final in Tai Tapu on Saturday.

The Selwyn-based side faced Rakaia, which was out to erase the memories of last year’s final when it was beaten by another Selwyn side, Southbridge.

Waihora halfback, Harrison Kirk, got the scoring underway when he slotted a penalty after just three minutes. Rakaia equalised with a penalty of its own a couple of minutes later when fullback Andrew Latham was successful with the boot.

Waihora winger, Joel Harden opened the try account for the home side when he scored in the corner. While Kirk missed the conversion, he added a penalty a short time later to give Waihora an eleven to three lead.

Following a Rakaia penalty, Kirk then scored himself and duly converted.

Waihora players celebrate their first Canterbury Country rugby title

Rakaia finally crossed the Waihora try line late in the half, and a further penalty closed the gap before Kirk landed another penalty to make it 21–14 at the half-time break.

Waihora started with second-half in the best of fashion when flanker Connor Macbutler broke away to score unopposed after just two minutes of the half.

Rakaia responded with a converted try to Tomici Nabakeke and a penalty to close the gap up to two points.

Kirk responded with another penalty to give Waihora a five-point lead, 29–24 but then lost a player to the sin bin for 10 minutes.

Rakaia attacked hard but couldn’t find a way through the 14-man Waihora defence, which was well marshalled by fullback and Canterbury provincial rep, Mark Maitland.

Restored to a full 15 players, Waihora saw attack as the best form of defence and was rewarded when Maitland skipped through the Rakaia defence to score a try, which Harrison converted to give the home side a 36–24 lead, which it never surrendered.