Points halved as premier rugby teams now hunt for play-off spots

Now the real competition starts.

That could be the feeling for some Taranaki premier rugby coaches after the first round came to an end on Saturday.

Now they are not playing for “half” points after watching what they accumulated over seven weeks divided by two. Those teams lucky enough to have ended the round on an odd number at least got a “bonus” point after their totals got rounded up.

At least the Taranaki Rugby Football Union will be happy because their hope of every team has a shot of still making the semifinals once the second round starts has well and truly come to fruition.

How perfectly politically correct it is that only seven points separates second placed Tukapa from bottom placed Inglewood.

The one constant is New Plymouth Old Boys who sit top of the table after they ended round one unbeaten with a perfect seven from seven.

Their only gripe might be losing 17 points. That was more or equal the amount that the five bottom teams amassed from seven games.

There was, however, some bright points to come out of the round, none more so than Stratford managing three wins, the latest of which was a 42-40 victory over Clifton.

That win was enough to get them to fourth spot, a place they have not threatened for some time.

They did it tough, though, landing a 79th minute penalty before affording Clifton the opportunity to win it on the bell with a wide range penalty of their own.

However, it would have been a bit of injustice had they not grabbed maximum points.

Stratford scored six tries to four and generally looked the more threatening side for most of the match.

Their problem was they made numerous costly mistakes that Clifton capitalised on.

If Clifton, a shadow of the side that opened the competition with a decisive win over Tukapa, had been even 10 per cent more accurate, they probably would have won.

The fact they did not was probably down to the fact they look to be low on confidence while they are missing some key players in vital positions.

Clifton had their chance to close out the match but Stratford showed a more than commendable attitude of never accepting defeat, with some of their long range tries coming off miracle passes or top notch finishing.

One thing is for sure, Stratford provide their supporters with action, good and bad.

It leaves coach Rawiri Mako equally frustrated and delighted.

“We just gave it up so quickly,” he said. “We’d score a try, get in front then we give it straight back. It’s obviously something we need to work on but I’m thrilled for our team and thrilled for the club to get a win at home. I think it’s the first time in four or five years they reckon.”

Mako said he didn’t mind opposition sides scoring good tries against them but he got “grumpy” when they “gave them” soft five pointers.

“We passed them the ball and off they went.”

Elsewhere, Old Boys made Southern pay for most of their mistakes in a 45-22 win at Hawera.

Southern coach Jason Skipper said Old Boys were too well drilled for the home side as they punished them off turnover ball especially.

Behind 26-0 at halftime, Southern came back with four tries of their own without ever threatening to take the game out.

Lock Jesse Parete had a strong game while Daniel Brooks performed well at first five eighth.

Chiefs flanker Lachlan Boshier was outstanding for Old Boys, scoring a hat-trick of tries. His were three of seven tries Old Boys crossed for, with the forwards scoring the bulk of them.

No 8 Hamish Alabaster was the man-of-the-match.

Tukapa made it five wins in a row with a convincing 39-15 win over Spotswood United at Yarrow Stadium.

Spotswood United competed really well for the first half and held a 12-10 lead at the break. The wheels fell off in the second half after they lost a man to the sin bin for fighting.

That advantage was the only invitation Tukapa needed as they ran away with the game.

Their best players were loose forwards Cody Grayling and Mitchell Crosswell.

Spotswood United’s best players were halfback Byron McDermott and prop Jared Proffit.

Coastal kept Inglewood at the bottom of the table after they won their match 20-17 at Rahotu in the remaining game.

The home side got off to a strong start and dominated the first hour before Inglewood came back strongly to the point they almost snatched the win only for veteran halfback Brett Goodin to pull off a try saving tackle on fulltime.

Coastal coach Aaron Fisher was delighted they managed to win given how many players they were missing.

He said several players from lower grade sides had to step up, including prop Liam Hurley who had a really strong game along with openside flanker Blake Barrett.

Inglewood co-coach Cole Brown admitted they struggled to match Coastal’s intensity up front and paid the price for it.

Their best players were Ben Leng in the midfield, hooker Harry Jones and halfback Ben West.

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