Waiheke Pirates felt the heat against College Rifles Bombers in the first round of the nationwide under-85kg National Cup knockout competition, falling 5-46.
A new-look Waiheke team, bolstered by some talented recruits, competed well in the first half, with the Pirates dominating the opening 15 minutes with sustained periods of possession and some flowing football, resulting in a pick-and-go try to Oscar Bezzant. And a stout defensive line repelled and frustrated the Bombers’ attack.
Pirates forwards Cory Cormack, Jayden Lewis, and player of the day Kyrin Harris made good yards up front, while utility backs Mason Hughes and Kegan Pitkethley were both strong in the midfield and dangerous on the counterattack. Alex Branch continues to improve at halfback and captain fantastic Ben Kara again added some starch to the Pirates pack and is relishing his role in the front row.
In a manner familiar to the Pirates’ season to date, an under-strength bench meant the Bombers were able to take control of the game in the second half by adding fresh legs and capitalising on some inopportune turnovers to produce a scoreline that perhaps did not reflect the closeness of the contest. The Pirates’ coaching staff were impressed with the progress the team had made this season, especially at ruck and maul time.
The Pirates now have a run of away games starting this Saturday at College Rifles Raiders, and return to the Onetangi Sports Park on 2 July when they host Marist. New players are welcome to attend trainings on Tuesday and Thursday 6pm at the Onetangi Sports Park.
• Nat Upchurch