Hornets late try stings Tigers

By James Perry

The Howick Hornets live to fight another battle in the Fox Memorial. 

The final few minutes saw the Hornets regain the lead to advance to the major final next week.

The Hornets defeated the Northcote Tigers in the knockout semi final 22-17 on Saturday at Mt Smart No. 2.  

Northcote looked to have stolen the win shortly beforehand, when Morgan Timoti-Cook caught a Cole Waaka cross-field kick to score.  The conversion tied the score at 17-all.

Waaka broke the deadlock with a field goal a few minutes later to give the North Shore side a 1 point lead with 3 minutes left on the clock. 

However, a perfectly executed short kick-off by the Hornets saw Luke Armiger regather the football and four tackles later halfback Drew Radich crossed over to steal victory for the East Aucklanders. 

Veteran Hornets prop Tony Tuia (Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Porou) says, "That was massive, especially once he got the ball we felt a bit of confidence there, they would have dropped their heads losing that one."

Northcote captain, Taylor Daniels (Te Ati Awa) says "It's a tough one to take right at the end, eh.

"it's an eighty minute game.  Credit to Howick, they never gave up even when we got that little bumper." 

The two sides took a victory each from their two meetings this season.  The semi-final clash proved no different.

Howick's Troy Pulupaki got the scoring underway after 6 minutes, barging his way over from close range.

Tigers hit back with a try to winger James Waterson and Timoti-Cook crossed for the first of his two tries shortly afterward.

The Hornets scored two more tries to take the lead before Morgan-Cook's last try set up the thrilling finish. 

Tuia says, "Both teams worked hard to be in this position and then to steal it like that back from them tastes sweet."

Despite the loss, Daniels is still proud of what his team has achieved this year.

Having avoided relegation from the Fox Memorial division only a few years ago, the Tigers have a platform to build on for next year. 

"It's been, I don't know, nearly a decade of being on the bottom of the Fox table so it's massive for us where we finished this year."

Howick advance to the major final next week against Point Chevalier, the winner advancing to the final of the Fox Memorial against Glenora.

Tuia says the Hornets can take a lot of confidence out of their last gasp win on Saturday. 

"To show that sort of character- we know we can go into next week with our heads held high."