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Game 1 - Flawless victory 20-0 over the Wellington City Wolves

posted Nov 14, 2011, 12:07 AM by hutt valley Spartans   [ updated Nov 21, 2011, 6:15 PM ]
Finally the first game of the season was upon us and after the Wellington Wolves went down 12-0 to the Porirua Giants in game one of the season the week before, the Spartans were expecting a bit of a backlash from their week two opponents. This was a rematch of last years Capital Bowl which was won in a dominant performance by the Spartans 34-8, So the home team Wolves definitely would have had revenge on the minds as well to further motivate them for this big game. Both teams had a lot of players ready to get the game started and this showed the main benefit of having a three team competition this season, with all teams looking like they have very healthy rosters in the early stages of the season. Spartans game captains, Scott Thomson, Jonny Connor and Bevan Wood met the opposition & the officials at midfield and came back with the news that they would be kicking off to start their campaign in defence of the title they won in February. After a solid kick coverage the defence got the first chance to impress, and with six starting rookies on that side of the ball they could have been forgiven if they came out slightly nervous.
They came out and looked anything but rookies, Henry Tauti, Michael Farrer, Ina Sione, Supa Afele and William & Joe Oloapu all looked immediately like they belonged on a football field as the Wolves were forced into an immediate three & out. With the wind at their backs the Spartans fielded a short punt and it was the offences turn to try and match the start that the defence had given the team. Veteran Fullback Ese Amosa started things off with a bang! In an eerily similar start to last years final when Scott Thomson took the opening kickoff back for a score to set the boys up for their second ever championship, Amosa took the first play from scrimmage about 60 yards down the right sideline for the TD. He broke a couple of tackles as he headed toward the sideline and then got a massive block from WR Colin Leilua-Toilolo which gave him just enough room to tip toe inside the sideline before breaking two more cover tackles and falling into the endzone. The sideline went up and the cheers were still being heard as Amosa barreled his way in for the 2-point conversion on a tough run up the middle breaking yet more tackles.

The defence continued to play impressively as they were flying around the field and putting a lot of pressure on anyone who had the ball in their hands. William and Vena Kalepo were both constantly in the Wolves backfield and were really effective with their tackling and never gave the opposition a chance to get in any sort of offensive rhythm. With a lot of their run plays being stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, the Wolves tried to pass their way out of trouble but Sione, dropping back in coverage from his ILB position, stepped in front of a pass over the middle and returned the interception about 40 yards back down to the Wolves 10-yard line. Amosa made them pay for the turnover scoring his second rushing touchdown in spectacular fashion. Once again he gained yards down the right side and just short of the goal line he leapt high to hurdle the safety and dive into the end zone. Toward the end of the first half the Wolves had the ball near halfway but their drive stalled with around twenty seconds left on the clock. They attempted a punt but the punter couldn't handle the snap and was sacked for a big loss. After telling QB Connor to take a knee to finish the half, Spartan Head Coach Nate Lambert couldn't pass up the good field position and at the last minute he got the call out on to the field to take a shot at the end zone. Connor took full advantage of the opportunity and immediately found Thomson who made an incredible catch at the front of the end zone for a crucial TD just before halftime. With a second failed two point attempt the Spartans went into the sheds leading by 20 points to nil.

The message at halftime from the Spartan coaches was for more of the same as they had been dominant on both sides of the ball in racking up their lead, and with patchy showers continuing to make the weather conditions difficult, 20 points should have seen them far enough ahead to win this game. But they came out in the second half and had the worst possible start. The Wolves had upped their intensity and with Amosa on the sideline resting a sore shoulder, the offence was starting to struggle. They were forced into a punt and the snap went straight over Wood's head and after a few players fumbled the ball down field, the Wolves ended up with possession in the Spartan red zone. The defence came up big though as they had done all day and forced a turnover on downs as the Wolves offence continued to be suffocated by a defence that just seemed to be all over the field. Kalepo and yet another impressive rookie, Clint Foai were constantly getting into the backfield and making plays. The offence was slowly working their way into good field position before Connor held the ball a little too long before passing and took a big sack and the ball came loose and was dived upon by the defence for their second consecutive turnover. Connor injured his leg on the play and didn't return to the game, so he joined Amosa on the sideline. The defence continued to dominate though and their impressive team effort would see the Wolves kept to zero for the second week in a row. 

The Offence, without their starting Quarterback and Running back, worked well in the fourth quarter with Thomson under centre and Wood and Sione filling in at FB. The weather meant the game was always going to be a slightly messy affair but both teams did really well in playing some very positive and exciting football throughout the afternoon. The second half stalemate continued without too many highlights and after a scoreless second half the game ended with a twenty to nil win for the Hutt Valley team.

Well played to the Wolves and congratulations to the Spartans for an impressive first up effort. Everybody that stepped foot on the field turned up with a great team attitude and it showed in the result. The most pleasing aspect of game one was the performance of all of the rookies, and there were a lot of new boys out there. 

There were some very impressive shows of athleticism and instincts from some of the new boys, and they showed how much potential they have. It is going to be a very exciting year watching all of these players grow into their positions and this team should move forward and become a very formidable unit as they try to go for the Capital Bowl repeat.