At a glance
Stratford 21 Tukapa 19
Coastal 34 NPOB 19
Spotswood United 33 Clifton 25
Southern 30 Inglewood 23
Stratford-Eltham marked their official coming together as a premier rugby club with an upset 21-19 win over defending champions Tukapa on Saturday.
In front of a decent home crowd whose expectations grew the more the game went on, the combined side kicked a late 39m penalty through fullback Jordan Masters to seal the win with a minute left on the clock
It was far from a vintage opening to the season with both sides making plenty of mistakes, mixed in with some questionable option taking and general lack of execution but it was hard to fault Stratford-Eltham’s enthusiasm as they hustled and bustled their more fancied opponents off the ball.
They also forced them into some pretty routine mistakes while some new players to the grade struggled with some of the fundamentals of playing senior rugby.
Tukapa, too, might question whether or not they should have taken more points on offer after they turned down a number of shots at goal in the second half in favour of taking lineouts that equated to nothing in the end.
It was a case of going back 12 months for Tukapa too, because they were poor in their opening match in 2016 before they came right when it mattered.
They also had a number of first choice players away, although Stratford-Eltham also have a few players to come in.
While they conceded a couple of early tries they came back into the game well in the second half and they took the limited opportunities they created.
There were a couple of real stand-out players for the home side with openside Matthew Kissick and No 8 James Millar exceptional with most of their work.
“Without there guns, the other guys that played were not where they would have hoped they would be and we took advantage of that,” Stratford-Eltham coach Rawiri Mako said. “They will get better, no doubt, but we will too.”
Mako was pleased with the way his side defended in the second half and how they followed instructions to play the game at their pace when they could.
“I thought we could quicken it up and we did that pretty well at times.”
Elsewhere, Southern midfielder Dane Picot van Heuven had a memorable start to the season as he scored a hat-trick of tries in their 30-23 win over Inglewood at the TET Stadium.
Southern managed to take a number of opportunities afforded them in the first half to race out to a 27-6 lead at the break.
However, Inglewood came back well and closed the gap to seven points but they just failed to turn attack into points in the last 10 minutes.
Picot van Heuven was an obvious stand-out for Southern while blindside flanker Reuben McLeod and No 8 Daniel Parete had strong games also.
Inglewood co-coach Lyall Bunn was impressed with centre and captain Ben Leng while Michael MacDonald had a strong game on the wing in his debut.
Spotswood United also made a good start and held a decent lead at the break over Clifton at Tikorangi before the home side came back before losing 33-25.
Spotswood United played some really good rugby in the first half according to assistant coach Matt Stone who said they then failed to exit well and took some poor options the more the game went on.
Best players for Spotswood United were openside Tristian Lahmert, centre Enele Fidow and prop Jarred Proffit.
Coastal beat New Plymouth Old Boys 34-19 in the remaining game at Rahotu. While Old Boys took a 14-10 lead into the break, Coastal dominated a 15-minute period early in the second half when they scored two tries and put Old Boys under real pressure.
There was plenty to like for Coastal coach Aaron Fisher who was delighted with the way the team came together and the performances of several new players and a number who were playing out of position.
He highlighted hooker Cal Davies, prop Lance Graves and Jacob Gopperth who has been switched from the side of the scrum to second five-eighth.
Old Boys co-coach Michael Carr conceded they were outplayed, especially early in the second half after which they were forced to play catch-up.
He was nevertheless happy with the way several new players made the step up. The best Old Boys players were halfback Shaan Waite and two-try scorer Willie McBride who started at hooker but had to switch to a number of other positions.