As the northern club rugby premier season draws to a close, Wellsford RFC has held onto fourth place on the standings table with a resounding victory in its home game against Hikurangi Rugby Club on May 18.
Hikurangi took an early lead, scoring a try and a conversion in the first ten minutes, but it didn’t take long for Wellsford to warm up.
Dylan Lewis broke through Hikurangi’s defence and, despite a tackle that brought him to the ground right before the goal line, a last-second pass to Neil Warnock resulted in Wellsford’s first try and subsequent conversion.
“We had a slow start, but once we found our rhythm our forwards were delivering pretty good balls to the back, who found good space,” says Wellsford RFC club manager Mick Sweetman.
After another try, Wellsford finished the first half with a 12-7 lead, but the mood in the crowd was that it was anyone’s game.
Matthew Wright, above, made six successful goal kicks.
However, Wellsford’s momentum carried into the second half and continued to test an increasingly fatigued Hikurangi side.
Hikurangi managed to score one more try, but the score at the final whistle was a comfortable 62-12 win for Wellsford, including six successful goal kicks from full back Matthew Wright.
“Wright is not far off playing 50 games for Northland Rugby Union and his experience showed out on the day,” Sweetman says.
Sheldon McKinley also scored several tries on what was only his third run with the premier side, making some quick escapes to the back corner towards the end of the match.
Sweetman says he is happy with where Wellsford is placed, considering the challenges the club has faced, including injuries and loss of some key players.
Ross Wright has a contract with the Blues, while Jordan Hyland is now signed up with the Highlanders.
Wellsford is set to play against the Western Sharks after a break for Queen’s Birthday weekend.
“That will be a crucial game for us to cement our placement in the top four so hopefully we will be able to phase back in our injured players and throw everything in to get a semi-final,” Sweetman says.
“We also don’t want to draw too much from the reserves and jeopardise their performance at this point in the season.”
This year, northern club rugby has a shorter season of only 14 games to allow the Mitre 10 Cup to start early to fit in with the Rugby World Cup.