Mach Reporter – Jock Sheehan
Old Timer’s Day at the Hutt Rec saw a full grandstand and Longroom and plenty of others on the sidelines. Club rugby is alive and well! It was great to see the Premiers sung on to the field by the Prem Reserves and thanks to the Committee for a magnificent luncheon spread and organisation on the day.
To the game: The common theme of feedback from supporters after today’s outing was one of significant frustration.
This team offers so much but apart from a couple of flashes of brilliance again it was largely 80m minutes of lost opportunities. When one looks at this team (arguably a stronger unit) compared with the 2019 version it’s hard to put a finger on the differences in performances. To this writer this team seems to be lacking the same hunger, one or two players in key positions and to some extent seems lacking in on field leadership.
The Eagles went down 17-10 in a game it could have won, but alternatively could have lost by more, had it not been for scrambling defence at various times. Tawa spent the majority of the first half on attack and commanded possession in a half the The Eagles seemed content to sit back and wait to see what happened. Consequently it seemed inevitable after around 30 minutes when another aimless kick from defence to Tawa’s back three on halfway led to a well-taken try by their backline and scored by their No 13 close enough for an easy conversion, Tawa 7 – HOBM 0.
This seemed to spur the home side into action and finally led with some urgency by impressive young No 8 Mika Alaifastu, Ben Power and Josh Brown (my pick of the players of the day) and smart back play saw Mika run right off the base of a scrum and quick passing saw Todd Svenson dive in low wide out. Try unconverted. Tawa 7 – HOBM 5.
Immediately from the kick-off the kick was fielded by Mika who made good ground before Brandyn gassed through a gap and found Salesi who took it to the line before an inside pass saw Glen Walters over. A classic 70 metre Eagle’s try and the best of the match. Unusually Brandyn missed a normally easy conversion for him. HOBM 10 – Tawa 7 which was the score at oranges.
At this stage The Eagles could be regarded as lucky to be in the lead, but by the same token had benefited from some stoic and scrambling defence. However in reality they had been on the back foot for most of the half and lacked the hunger being demonstrated by the visitors.
The Eagles started the stronger in the second half giving their Old Timers Day supporters belief that they might just run away with the game. However failure to finish off promising forays, with final passes not being given and 50/50 offloads, when taking the ball to recirculate could have delivered better outcomes, (shades of the Norths match here) meant great opportunities to score went begging.
Unfortunately that was it from The Eagles with Tawa scoring in the 53rd minute from a simple 8-9 move seeing the overlap created out wide and their wing scoring out wide. Unconverted . Tawa 12 – HOBM 10
Four minutes later Tawa scored again after their impressive no 13 cut back in on a lovely angle from about 22 out from another set play and scored virtually untouched. Again unconverted. Tawa 17 – HOBM 10. This completed the scoring with the remaining 20 plus minutes being an arm-wrestle with neither side capable of scoring again.
This game is all about territory and possession and it was galling to see The Eagles squander three attacking opportunities in this half through failing to find the sideline with penalty kicks for touch. At this level of rugby that is unacceptable. Towards the end of the match it seemed that the team lacked direction and leadership and became somewhat indecisive which is something we have not been used to seeing over the past few seasons.
Somehow The Eagles need to get off the mat and up for their next big challenge – next week’s McBain Shield. With the Villagers on a winning streak this will take a better effort than in the past two games and will require some head-scratching and some big decisions by management around game plans, player selection and on-field leadership. The good news, if we win we will be top four.
Other weekend results: -
Premier Reserves – Held off a fast-finishing Tawa to prevail 29 – 24
Women – Had a meritorious victory over Petone – 27 – 22
Colts – continued their unbeaten run putting Tawa way 22 -12
85 Howlers went down to Eastbourne – 17 -28
Pressies had a crushing victory 89 – 0 over Avalon