1st XV wins North Harbour title
Written by Trey Tupu-South
Photos by Jack Hall and Ollie Jones
Westlake took on Massey for the 1st XV North Harbour Championship at North Harbour stadium on Thursday night. Although Massey played with confidence and belief at the start of the game, drawn from beating Rosmini the previous week, by half time the game was all but over with Westlake ahead 24-3. In the end, Westlake stretched their lead to an overwhelming 34-3 win.
The perfect pitch and conditions foresaw a great running game, which both teams established early on. However, the initial upper hand was gained by Massey, which had faster pace and a stronger backline who had a try disallowed by the TMO. Fine Inisi’s superior speed saw Westlake take the early lead, after the second five out-ran the opposing team to collect a punt by right winger Spencer McDowall, scoring in the right hand corner. Despite this, Massey maintained their dominance and were certain that they had scored through the hands of their captain. However, Massey was starved of another try as the TMO disallowed this second effort within just two minutes of the first. Nevertheless, Massey halfback Miracle Naititi managed to salvage three points by converting a penalty kick positioned twenty metres out and in front of the posts. Player of the match, Fine Inisi scored his second try and then sealed his hat trick within the first 26 minutes. The second five showcased amazing speed and incredible instinctiveness by supporting his teammates and swerving through Massey’s backline. His brother Lotu capitalized upon Westlake’s great half with a try of his own. Taking a ball off a rolling maul from 5 metres out, he stormed over the try line for Westlake to enter halftime with a comfortable 24-3 lead.
Westlake’s substitutes in the second half, halfback Casey Smith and blindside flanker Arno Mouton, made a major impact in the second half and eliminated any idea of a Massey comeback. Lotu Inisi demonstrated a unique range of skills by grubbing the ball on the run and setting up Smith in the left hand corner. His powerful running remained a pivotal part of Westlake’s game throughout the second half. Despite Massey spending a large amount of time in Westlake’s 22 for the latter part of the half, Westlake’s strong defensive line and Jack Heighton’s great kicking ability ensured that they never saw the line. Arikitohia put forward an impressive running performance in the second half, establishing a signature ability to slip out of tackles and through Massey’s defensive line. Despite Westlake’s domination of the game, Massey demonstrated great sportsmanship by fighting till the end, even after the final buzzer, though to no avail as Westlake secured the 34-3 win and the schools 13th championship in the 26 years since the competition’s commencement.