The New Zealand Hawks have taken their revenge on the South Pacific, squaring the series with a big win at Hutt Park.
After losing the first match at Westpac Stadium, the New Zealand Hawks were desperate to reassert their authority over the younger South Pacific side.
They did so thanks to the efforts of their veteran players, such as Jared Court, Stan Chung and Andrew Christensen, who delivered composed and mature performances in difficult conditions.
The wind was a crucial factor in this match, with a strong breeze blowing end to end. Points scored into the wind proved to be of vital importance.
The Hawks had the wind in the first quarter, and made the most of the advantage. While their initial kicks at goal were wayward, their accuracy improved over the quarter, resulting in a score of 4.6:30-0.0:0 at the break.
As expected, the South Pacific came back hard in the 2nd quarter. Cam Bailey showed a remarkable instinct for goal in this quarter, kicking 3 goals. Ben Miller added another to bring the South Pacific back into the match.
The Hawks managed to keep their noses in front thanks to determined attacks into the wind. Chris Mundell converted a goal after David Rattenbury cleverly found him in front of goal, with Logan Toomer kicking his 2nd goal of the match. The half time score was 6.8:44-4.3:27 to the Hawks.
The third quarter was the best from the South Pacific over the match, despite not scoring any points. However, an incredible defensive effort negated the wind, to the point that they were still in the game with one quarter to play. The score stood at 7.13:55 – 4.3:27 at three quarter time.
Will Gregson admirably earned his place over the third quarter, while Utusa’itoa Ah Kuoi, a late call up to the team, didn’t look out of place for such a relatively young player. Ha’ele Finau of Tonga also proved to be a tough opponent for the Hawks.
Full of confidence, South Pacific came out with intent, looking to use the wind to snatch a late victory. The 4th quarter however is typically the strongest of the match for the Hawks, and this match was no exception.
Kicking three goals into the wind was a remarkable achievement; even better was their defensive efforts, letting in only two goals over the quarter. With each point putting the Hawks further in front, the game was pushed out of reach for the South Pacific. The final score was 10.16:76 – 6.3:39.
Justin Davies was proud of the team effort shown by the New Zealand Hawks. “I’m not sure if we really had a best player. We talked at the start of the game about everyone contributing, and that was really great to see today.”
Both coaches, Andrew Congalton for the South Pacific and Justin Davies for the New Zealand Hawks, praised the efforts of their opposing team. Davies made mention of the strong work undertaken by the regional coaches in the New Zealand High Performance programme, who keep training standards high despite not being able to come together as a national group regularly.
With the series completed, attention will now turn to the International Cup in August. New Zealand Hawks captain Michael Gregson praised the efforts of New Zealanders from both teams, and suggested many players had significantly enhanced their prospects of making the International Cup team.
Scores and Goals
New Zealand Hawks: 10.16:76 (Toomer 3, Morton 2, Benny, Harris, Mundell, Beattie, Terry)
South Pacific: 6.3:39: (Bailey 5, Miller 1)
South Pacific Awards:
South Pacific Game 1) Cam Bailey
NZ Hawks Game 1) Ty Smith
South Pacific Game 2) Will Gregson
NZ Hawks Game 2) Tim Morton
NZ Hawks Awards:
NZ Hawks Game 1) Michael Gregson
South Pacific Game 1) Andrew Howison
NZ Hawks Game 2) Jared Court
South Pacific Game 2) Ha’ele Finau