The tightness of their defence was a key factor in Gladstone’s 18-10 win over Eketahuna in the Tui Cup premier division rugby match at Gladstone on Saturday.
Ahead by 13-3 at halftime after an evenly contested first 40 minutes, Gladstone spent most of the second half deep in their own territory as Eketahuna threw everything at them bar the proverbial kitchen sink.
Time after time the goalline was under siege as the defending champions strung phase after phase together but the sureness of the Gladstone tackling was such that only the one try was conceded.
In contrast Gladstone were able to turn most of their prime scoring opportunities into points on the board. They struggled to make much headway from the set pieces, especially the scrums where they were often on the back pedal, but it was a different story in broken play. There it was nothing unusual for the initial ball carrier to make decent metres before linking with their supports. In the end they ran in three tries, enough to get them home by eight points and deny Eketahuna a bonus point in the process.
Outstanding for Gladstone up front were prop Lance Graves and No 8 John Stevenson. Graves made several punishing bursts with ball in hand and was a diligent worker in the mauls while Stevenson was typically industrious on attack and defence. Hooker Nick Griffith also proved an able replacement for the experienced Richard Puddy, who was sidelined through injury.
Unquestionably the most potent attacking force in the Gladstone rearguard was Inia Katia, first at halfback and then in the five-eighths.His darting runs had everyone guessing – even his own teammates – and he regularly punched holes in the Eketahuna defence.Wingers Brad Aldridge and Dylan Lord-Bune didn’t have too many chances but displayed impressive speed when they did.
Eketahuna got value from props Jared Brock and Lance Biddle who were at the forefront of the many short passing rushes implement by their forwards during the match and there was a lot to like about the energy and constructiveness displayed by flanker Mata Naimusudroka.
The absence of key playmaker Sam Monaghan, whose unavailability could stretch well into next month, was a blow for Eketahuna. Halfback Clint Algie was perhaps the pick of them along with hard-running second-five Chris Terry and wing Filipe Mendy.
Cameron Hayton, Jock Cameron and Brad Aldridge scored tries for Gladstone and Hayton added one penalty. Jordan Bennett-Davies scored the Eketahuna try and Tom Meuli kicked one penalty and one conversion.