LOOSE BALL: Regan Atkins picks up the ball for Whakatane High School’s under-16 team in the final against Tauhara which they won 20-19 on Saturday. Photo Troy Baker D8854-022

AFTER a tight 20-19 tussle Whakatane High School won the 2019 Baywide Secondary School Under-16 championship on Saturday.

Played at Rugby Park in Whakatane the game between Whakatane and Tauhara was evenly matched from the outset.

Vice-caption Luke Fenton and man of the match Dane Hargreaves talked to the Beacon and said the winning formula was due to their physicality and that they were a tight group of friends.

Dane said there was some “serious pressure going into the match” as both teams had had a win and a loss to each other in earlier round robin play.

Tauhara opened the scoring and Whakatane replied with a try set up by Dane and then a quick a pick and go by Philip Nuku who crossed the line for the first of two tries in the final.

Himiona Hunia-Mataio also scored two tries with the first just before half-time.

Tauhara scored their second try just before the break and were ahead having converted their tries.

Luke and Dane said, “it was a calm and collected” half-time talk by Whakatane Under-16 coaches Augie Williams and Dan Wallwork. “They just said for us to go back to the basics – to hold onto the ball and kick for territory”.

The second half saw Whakatane score two more unconverted tries and Tauhara one converted try.

During the last play of the game, Whakatane was defending on their 22, when they turned the ball over and Luke kicked the ball and it bounced over the line into touch just over half-way.

Luke said, “I didn’t know time was up so when the whistle went after the ball bounced out I saw our coaches and supporters cheering and realised we’d won.”

Relief was the first emotion followed by elation for Luke and Dane who are year-11 and year-10 students respectively.

In 2020, the Whakatane team will play in the Baywide 1st XV division three grade.