The Otamatea Hawks rugby side has survived a scare and will remain in the Joe Morgan Memorial premier rugby competition after winning its relegation play-off match.
The side beat North Zone Championship winners Moerewa 26-17 at home on July 21, having to play the relegation match after finishing last in the premier competition.
Otamatea Hawks head coach Mike Peeni says he was pleased to beat a strong Moerewa side and retain a position in the top competition for next season.
“They hadn’t lost a game this season so we were always going to be tested,” Peeni says. “We were losing 17-14 with 20 minutes to go, but our bench players came on and made the difference, so that was a relief for us.”
The team had a reasonable start to the season, but fell apart in the second round losing multiple points for infringing competition rules.
“We had a contracted player come in from Japan to play for us, but we didn’t do the paperwork correctly and lost a lot of points for that, which is a learning curve for the future.”
The team also faced difficulties with numbers after three Fijian players set to join with the squad were delayed for the whole season due to slow processing of their visas.
“Because of the shortage we had to use reserve team players. They were fatigued on the field, having to play two games in one day.
“I think overall, a lack of fitness let us down the most in our matches.”
After two seasons as head coach, Peeni is looking to step back into an assistant role with the team.
“After a couple of tough years, it’s time for someone else to come in and change the way we do things.
I’m hoping to be a part of that transition.
“We have a number of good young players coming through. It’s important we identify them and get them involved for next season.”