Lions make statement
Slacks Creek blasted a warning to their open 1 rivals with a tough no nonsense win against Redlands at Usher Park.
The Lions had to roll up their sleeves in the latter stages of the game, but came through victorious winning 22-18 against Redlands.
In a game that was level pegging throughout it was Redlands who drew first blood, and after eight minutes of play Gareth Jones fed centre Nathan Tanna who raced in out wide. A beautiful sideline conversion from Craig Matheson had Redlands leading 6-0.
Slacks Creek hit back with a nice try of their own when halfback Shaun Inu chipped over the Redlands defence, regathered and offloaded the ball to a willing and able Greg Preston who touched down in front of a very vocal Slacks Creek crowd. Conversion successful and it was 6-6.
The match was far from a classic, but provided enough entertainment for the supporters who braved the elements. The referee was penalising both sides for constant back chat and it was these easy metres from back to back penalties to the Lions which saw their next try.
It was the elusive Inu again who was causing headaches for the Redlands defence and as a consequence a beautiful cross kick on the last tackle found centre Leon Nakore who made no mistake and planted the ball down in the corner. With the difficult conversion slotted by Chris Cook, the Lions were leading 12-6.
Just as the Lions started to create havoc with the Redlands side, a dropped ball straight from the kick off had a scrum feed to the Parrots 10m out. From the scrum, a bullet like pass from Matheson found Linton Taituma who raced in to score and close the deficit to 12-10. Conversion was waved away.
Redlands however were again looking the stronger side at this point and their forward pack seemed to click up a notch making some blockbusting runs up the middle. Outstanding for Redlands were bookends Matt Obrien and Sheratyn Campbell with support from hooker Dan Ditton.
It was heart attack material for the Lions as a nice dart upfield by Mitch Reading was halted by his opposite number Wiremu Howe who pulled off a try-saving tackle to see the teams go in at the half time break 12-10 to the Lions.
The second half kicked off with the temperature plummeting to the bitterly cold conditions on the back of constant rain, but it was Redlands who darted out of the blocks early in the 49th minute when second rower Taituma went in for his second of the afternoon with some good lead up work by halves pairing Matheson and Jones. Matheson was unable to add the extras and saw the Parrots hit the lead at 14-12.
The Redlands halves pairing were at it again in the 57th minute when Matheson chipped over the Lions fullback’s head and a perfect bounce for five-eighth Jones saw him cross untouched. Conversion was unsuccessful and it was now all Redlands at 18-12.
But the Lions on home soil rolled up the sleeves and the aggressive bruising defence of Don Tofae and George Fainga saw Redlands drop the pill in their own quarter. The Lions turned defence into attack and it was left to hulking Lions prop Corey Southon to steamroll his was over the line besides the posts. With the extras added by Cook it was now even at 18-18 and a grand finale finish.
With only a minute remaining on the clock and a draw looming as the fulltime score, it took some Shaun Inu magic for Slacks Creek who saw an opportunity and took it with both hands. He put in a precision pin point kick to an unmarked Preston who flew high and planted it down in the corner to seal victory for the home side 22-18.