Northland Club rugby: Unforced errors prove to be Kamo’s Achilles heel

Kamo captain Blake Hohaia tries to get past a stubborn Hora Hora defense in his side’s loss. Photo /Michael Cunningham

Hora Hora are on the verge of achieving something that arguably has never happened before in Northland rugby — emulating the achievement of their women’s side by winning the men’s Premier and Premier Reserve titles.

Currently sitting second on the ladder, Hora Hora are nipping at the heels of leaders Mid Northern in Tyrepower Premier rugby, just a point adrift and could finish top of the pops if they win the remaining two rounds and Mid Northern slip up.

Hora Hora Premier Reserve are also in second position and look likely to make it to the semis, with just two rounds of competition left.

Their women’s Premier team beat Te Rarawa at home to win the Rana Paraha Trophy on May 29.

On Saturday, the Hora Hora men’s Premier team ground out a scrappy 27-22 win over hosts Kamo which showed they have as much fight and character as they do speed and vision.

This was by no means a perfect performance but they stuck at it with an indomitable will and a stubborn refusal to let it go.

It was a performance of unrelenting intensity and equal bravery, not to mention an astonishing defensive display by Hora Hora in the last quarter as Kamo kept hammering away in search of a last-gasp win.

The home side got an extra point for finishing within seven points and now sit third on the points table.

It was classic winter rugby as both sides rolled up the sleeves and slugged it out with a wet ball and a heavy field on a windy afternoon.

Lyric Brownlee gallops down the midfield after intercepting a Kamo pass to score his team's last try.  Photo / Michael Cunningham
Lyric Brownlee gallops down the midfield after intercepting a Kamo pass to score his team’s last try. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Kamo scrambled and they scrapped but Hora Hora reminded them they were not the flaky bunch of the last two years when the team failed to qualify for the finals.

The visitors silenced the home crowd when loose forward Melino Fotu, with the ball in one
hand, dived under the posts to open the scores in just the 7th minute, despite
playing against the wind and with the sun in their face.

But Kamo were ready for a tit-for-tat battle. Skipper Blake Hohaia slipped the tackle of fellow Northland Taniwha Dan Hawkins down the midfield channel three minutes later to set up No 7 Jordan Antunovich and level the scores.

Instead of bashing and crashing up front, Kamo used the width of the field to good effect but couldn’t make a mark on the scoreboard due to unforced errors and scrambling defense by Hora Hora.

Hawkins landed a penalty before captain Jaycob Matiu found a gaping hole off a lineout to crash over and extend Hora Hora’s lead to 17-10 at the breather.

The second half started poorly for Kamo as the kick-off went directly into the touch and No 10 Nikau Graham missed a penalty from 50m out.

Hora Hora piled on more misery when alert midfielder Lyric Brownlee intercepted a pass flung off the boot of a scrum and ran 40m to score.

Kamo pulled one back through winger Quinn Osborne to nudge the scores closer and launched a fierce fightback in search of a win but Hora Hora had other ideas.

There was plenty of venom and an overt desperation in defending their line. No 8 Lyrik Joyce felt the impact of a mid-size car after being hit by Hora Hora lock Tiaki Smith who forced a knock-on.

Openside flanker Jordan Antunovich leveled the scores for Kamo in the opening quarter but couldn't help his team beat Hora Hora.  Photo /Michael Cunningham
Openside flanker Jordan Antunovich leveled the scores for Kamo in the opening quarter but couldn’t help his team beat Hora Hora. Photo /Michael Cunningham

Even with a numerical disadvantage after referee Boris Jurlina sent Sione Pule to the bin in the second half, Hora Hora frustrated Kamo in set-piece play that thwarted the hosts from playing at tempo.

Hohaia rued the number of penalties they conceded in their half.

“They’d just kick in the corners and scored two tries from that and for their 12 to get that intercept, pretty much won them the game. But it’s rugby, you can’t control that but what we can control is our penalty count and we didn’t execute.

“We prepared to not run into them and crash and bash, we’re a small pack and we identified that from the get-go so we couldn’t afford to try and muscle it up. We planned to go around and make them work but we lost the battle.

“Unforced errors, conceding penalties and just simple things like the ball not going out when we get a penalty, we kicked it dead … it’s just easy outs for them and we can’t afford to do that against a good Hora Hora team , lamented Hohaia.

Kamo have an uphill battle this weekend, with an away game against leaders Mid Northern at Hukerenui.

The Hora Hora skipper was happy with Saturday’s outcome but not their discipline.

“We attacked well when we got the ball, we looked dangerous with ball in hand, defensively we did well too, we defended our line for the better half of the last half but discipline is the learning for us, heading into finals footy,” Matiu said.

He said the game was going to come down to who wanted it the most and his players rose to the occasion.

“We had the wind, we had the sun, we just played in the right part of the field. Can’t complain, being at the top from where we came from last year and the year before to not make the playoffs. It feels like good, the energy is high and, if the boys look after their bodies, we’ll be in a good spot come semis and finals.

“We don’t play to lose, we don’t play to make up the numbers and if we are making the playoffs of course we want to go all the way. I wouldn’t say we are overconfident but we just have to keep doing what we’re doing and getting the wins.”

Hora Hora host bottom-of-the-table Hikurangi this weekend and Mid Northern in the final round the following week.

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