Waikato sweeps into Championship final

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Saturday, October 20, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Waikato ran in six tries, four of them to wing Sevu Reece, who now goes to the top of the tryscoring list with 12, while first five Fletcher Smith contributed 18 points with a flawless eight from eight kicking display.


Yet Waikato had to a withstand a fierce Taniwha challenge in the opening half hour, during which the visitors’ backline made hay with some razzle dazzle rugby. Waikato looked briefly rattled. But, in the final analysis, the home side had the edge in the scrums and the loose, Reece in clinical finishing form and Smith running the cutter with aplomb.

Under a sunny Hamilton sky, Northland halfback Sam Nock scored the opening try after just two minutes off a Jack Debreczeni break.

Waikato halfback Samisoni Taukei’aho replied with his ninth try of the season off yet another effective lineout maul.

A quick tap by the Taniwha yielded a remarkable 80m try to wing Scott Gregory, with Rene Ranger and Matt Wright playing major hands.

When Wright went between the uprights off another Debreczeni break, Northland was 21-7 to the good and looking the goods.

But Nock’s subsequent sinbinning was a turning moment in the encounter. Waikato put three tries on the Taniwha in the space of just five minutes either side of halftime.

Halfback Jack Stratton scored off an 8-9 scrum move, before a tremendous break and offload by new Maori All Blacks fullback Matty Lansdown saw Reece score the first of a 19-minute quartet.

It was 21-all at the break but the floodgates were creaking open. Reece nabbed two more, one from an intercept of a Gregory pass and then the last from a sweet, long cutout pass by right wing Tyler Campbell, who was again good value.
Despite two late sinbinnings of Mitch Jacobson and the impressive James Tucker, Waikato had the match in hand.

There was time for Jono Kitto to dart over on the short side and then Sam McNamara was most unlucky to have a try ruled out for a purported forward pass.

But Waikato’s ascendancy was not in doubt and the Mooloos are now into their first final since the 2011 Premiership decider, in which they were edged by Canterbury.

Waikato 48 (Sevu Reece 4, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Jack Stratton tries; Fletcher Smith 6 con, 2 pen) Northland 26 (Sam Nock, Scott Gregory, Matt Wright, Jono Kitto tries; Jack Debreczeni 3 con) HT: 21-21