An expectant crowd turned up across both Awaikarangi and Maoribank Parks to support their local teams on Tranzit Coachlines Gala Day. All games were close and there was no shortage on upsets across both grades. The pitches were dry and- despite a strong wind- conditions were excellent. The atmosphere was relaxed, with plenty of kid's activities, sausage sizzles and the odd halftime Souvlaki being ordered by fans.
The biggest win of the day was enjoyed by MSP who comfortably beat rivals Tawa. Despite a strong start by last year's Jubilee Cup Champions, MSP came into their own in the latter stages of the first half and dominated the second. First-five Fa'atonu Fili and lock Sean Bridge were outstanding. At times, Fili has the ball on a string- including one moment where his cross-kick setup a corner try late in the first half. MSP were dominant in the second half and eventually won 31-13.
Old Boys University also came out strong winners beating Poneke 27-14. Old Boys University had a slight lead at halftime, before comfortably winning in the end. Halfback Tomasi Palu was excellent throughout as well as second-five Matt Goosen who scored a crucial second-half try. Poneke were not helped by the second-half sending off of big No.8 Ray Trevanis who received his second yellow card after foul play.
Another comfortable win was achieved by Oriental-Rongatai who won a high-scoring affair against Paramata-Plimmerton 30-13. Ories were favourites heading into the game and they will be happy to pick up a bonus point in Round One.
In the local derby, Upper Hutt Rams won an exciting encounter against HOBM 33-23 and received a bonus point in the process. After being down 14-20 at halftime, Upper Hutt rallied in the second-half buoyed on by a passionate home crowd. The result lifted the spirits of the home supporters after a disappointing loss in the Premier Reserves clash.
In another tight game, Norths beat Petone 25-19. The game was exciting from start to finish, with the scoring constantly fluctuating. Norths held a slight 15-12 lead at halftime before holding onto a 6 point win.
Wellington were delighted to pick up a bonus-point win over Johnsonville 37-28. Johnsonville- who have recruiting well in the off-season- will be disappointed with the result following a win in for the counterpart Reserves team in the curtain-raiser. The game was even 13-13 at halftime before Wellington sneaked in for a win in an entertaining second-half.
Finally, Wainuiomata won a titanic struggle against Avalon 14-13. Avalon held a tight 8-6 lead at the break, before Wainuiomata stayed calm under pressure to win a crucial first game.
In the Premier Reserve Grade, the biggest upset was caused by Johnsonville who tipped up their more fancied rivals Wellington 31-19. Other surprising results were Poneke's victory against Old Boys University 23-19 and Tawa's victory against MSP 17-12. In other results;
Wainuiomata beat Avalon 25-12, HOBM beat Upper Hutt 24-10, Norths beat Petone 19-17 and Oriental-Rongatai beat Paremata-Plimmerton 25-15.
All in all, a fantastic day out for all players, coaches, supporters and volunteers. The Tranzit Coachlines Gala Day offered fans a great opportunity to see all the teams in action. A great way to kick off a busy 2017 season!