Friday, May 13, 2011

Modest Foster sinks Petone

Match-winning Upper Hutt rugby first five-eighth Craig Foster doesn't need to attend a modesty finishing school - he's a natural at being humble.

The 22-year-old proved that last night at the Hutt Recreation Ground after guiding his side to a vital 22-15 Lion Brown Trophy comeback win over one of the competition big guns, Petone.

Foster landed three vital shots at goal, and it was from two of his tactical kicks that tries resulted as his side fought back from 12-0 down to hand Petone its second straight top-eight competition loss and leave it in danger of missing out on the top four.

But was Foster beating his chest afterwards? Not on your life.

"I can't do my job without the forwards doing their job," he said.

"We've got a strong forward pack and they just took control. That was it. The forwards won it tonight."

Northern United's forwards were completely out-gunned by Marist St Pats in last night's curtain-raiser, but somehow Norths emerged with an upset 20-17 win. Put it down to Norths' tremendous defence and commitment.

Consistency is what coach Scott Crichton is after now because last night's win followed Saturday's 41-18 hiding from Upper Hutt.

"It's just the inexperience of playing at this level," Crichton said.

"But it's coming together bit by bit."

Norths 20 MSP 17

At the Hutt Rec: Norths 20 (Cassidy Godinet, Junior Maligi tries; Glynn Ford 2pen, 2con) Marist St Pats 17 (Kas Lealamanua, Lome Fa'atau tries; James McHardy 2con, pen). HT: 10-3. Referee: Tim Fox.

What happened: Norths upset all predictions to win, doing so with little ball, having been cleaned out in the set pieces by the bigger, but less mobile MSP pack.

Why it happened: Norths won because defensively it was superb and because it converted the few chances it had into points to lead 20-3 early in the second half. That was too big a lead for MSP to haul back. MSP, which had more ball than it knew what to do with, only came to life in the final quarter, threatening to steal the game when winger Fa'atau scored with three minutes to play.

Players of the match: Norths' No 8 and captain Tale Lilo was inspirational on defence and halftime replacement lock Junior Maligi turned in a lively 40 minutes, highlighted by a try from an 85m breakout. Lanky MSP lock Andrew Elvidge gave his side a two-to-one advantage in the set piece, and halfback Elton Moncrieff played strongly.

Team assessments: Norths continues to be an enigma. One day it's hot and the next it's awful. If it can become more competitive at set pieces and gain consistency it will prove a handful for all. MSP has the forwards, but last night the backs looked ordinary and it generally lacked Norths' commitment.

Upper Hutt 22 Petone 15

At the Hutt Rec: Upper Hutt 22 (Loni Katoa, Andre Aumata, Aaron Croasdale tries; Craig Foster 2con, pen) Petone 15 (Karl Te Nana, Lotu Filemu tries; Jack Kelly pen, con). HT: 12-10. Referee: Craig Pomare.

What happened:Upper Hutt came from 12-0 down after three minutes to claw its way back into the game and snatch victory three minutes from time.

Why it happened: After being shaken early by two slick back tries, Upper Hutt cranked into action and shut Petone down up front. Upper Hutt, following the Canterbury Crusaders' Super 12 game-plan, was content to kick deep for much of the match and force Petone into mistakes. The mistakes came, with Petone left winger Joe Collins making a hash of an up-and-under and then misjudging a deep kick to gift two tries.

Players of the match: Impossible to look pass Upper Hutt first five-eighth Craig Foster. He controlled proceedings and it was from his kicks that the tries came. Upper Hutt's loose forwards, especially openside flanker Nathan Russell, were key figures for their tackling and support play.

Team assessments: Upper Hutt, with two successive wins, now looms as the team to beat. Last night it showed plenty of character to come back and it was without flu-struck captain, lock Steve Gordon. Petone will probably have to win all its remaining games to make the top four. That will be a huge ask for a team that is vulnerable under pressure.

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