The Auckland Rugby League Mad Butcher Fox Memorial Grading Round today saw a match up that was a bit special. Freyberg Park played host to the game between the East Coast Bays Barracudas and the Mt Albert Lions.
Why was it special ? Last year, East Coast Bays won the 3rd division Phelan Shield. Mt Albert last year won the venerable Fox Memorial Trophy. Two divisions apart 8 months ago and now playing on equal terms due to the Barracudas promotion to the Grading Round.
Both sides started strongly, both sides completing their sets but unable to break through the strong defence of their opposition. It was 18 minutes into the game before the Lions were able to break the deadlock through a try to centre, Losi Vaigata, following a great run from dummy half by full-back Savi Hafoka. East Coast Bays replied three minutes later when their number 10 front rower crashed over following a popped up ball from the Lions. Barracuda's full-back. Andrew (Slipper) Green grabbed the extra two and home team were in front 6/4.
Ten to go in the half, and winger, Joe Plamus, scored for the Lions. Kicker, Graham Rattenbury, obliged with the boot and Mt Albert were again in front, 8/6. The home team began to put themselves under all sorts of pressure with dropped ball, wrong options and all the sorts of things you shouldn't do against an experienced side like the Lions. With minutes left on the clock, East Coast Bays centre, Luke Watts, rescued the situation with a fine try in the corner.
Half time and the newcomers are on top 10/8. They are going ok, but this Mt Albert side have a ton of skills and experience and they look like they are just going to break loose.
Two minutes in and break loose they do. Two tries in 10 minutes to Ben Tongalea and Armstrong Lomu ( yes, apparently some relation ), converted by Rattenbury saw it 20/10. It looked like the flood gates were really going to open but strangely there was a long passage of play where both sides defended well and neither team could break through. Ten to go in the game and big number 16, Taufa Taufoou went in for the Lions. Hooker, Hira Mihaka scored the last for the game and Mt Albert came off winning 32/10.
That was a very good game of football. The new boys on the block were certainly not disgraced. Barracudas coach, Warwick Anderson, was a little disappointed with his teams effort but for mine they went ok. The Lions will be a force again in 2005 and they will be very keen to win back to back premierships.