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Spartans go 2-0 against the Porirua Giants

posted Nov 21, 2011, 2:57 PM by hutt valley Spartans   [ updated Nov 21, 2011, 10:08 PM by ian vena ]
Week three of the 2011-12 season was a match up to decide who would stand top of the table after one complete round of matches. Both teams had beaten the Wellington Wolves and were looking for a big game to get an early head start toward making the Capital Bowl. It was a fine but windy day and after a short delay to the kickoff, the Spartans won the toss and chose to receive. After a short kick return by Scott Thomson, Ese Amosa picked up where he left off against the Wolves the week before with some dominant runs to kickstart the team. The Spartans opening drive stalled though as a third down pass was deflected off Wide Receiver Colin Leilua-Toilolo’s hands and straight into the waiting arms of one of the Giants Linebackers. The Giants started off showing their intentions toward winning this game with a long run right through the teeth of the Spartan defence. This defensive lapse seemed to spark the Spartans into action and they got straight back to being the disciplined defensive team that shut out the Wolves the week before. An early sack by Ian Vena helped shut down the Giants opening drive and got the ball back in the offences hands. This time all of Amosa’s efforts bore some fruit as a solid drive ended with the big Fullback running into the end zone on a tough run for his third touchdown of the season to open the scoring. As he did last week, he followed his score up with a blockbusting run up the middle for the two point conversion to put the Spartans ahead 8 points to nil.
The defence went back to work on the ensuing possession and were really starting to dominate their opposition. After getting his team’s only interception in his debut game against the Wolves, Linebacker Ina Sione soon got his second turnover of the season when he recovered a fumble after Ian Vena knocked the ball loose. This change of possession occurred near halfway so the Spartans were in great field position to add to their lead. They found themselves immediately deep in the red zone courtesy of a long catch and run from Colin Leilua-Toilolo who made a great catch on a well thrown ball from Quarterback Jonny Connor. Ian Vena followed that up with a few tough runs to get the team close to the goal line before Amosa came back in to score his second touchdown as he ran in almost untouched on a short run and give his side a 14 point advantage. The two point conversion was unsuccessful and this was the way the score would stay as the half time whistle blew and both teams went away to discuss what had happened and come up with their second half game plans.
For the Spartans it was to come out and start the new half with renewed aggression but to stick with what had worked in the first half. The defence had been extremely dominant and the fact that they were going so well on that side of the ball meant that the offence could take a few more chances to increase their lead. With the weather remaining fine, there were no excuses for the Spartans not to put some more points on the board and put the Giants away early when they got back on the field.
The Spartan captains went out on the field to choose which direction they would be kicking off and came off the field with puzzled looks on their faces as the Giants bizarrely choose to kickoff again and give possession immediately back to the Hutt Valley team. The offence got their chance to put the game away early with good field position after the kick return, but they seemed to be a bit out of sync as there was a fumbled snap and then Connor threw his second interception of the day. As they had done all day, the defence came out and pressured the Giants, and they immediately caused another fumble that was again recovered by Sione. This time the offence marched down field on an impressive drive that was highlighted by a beautiful one handed catch by Slotback Jed Peniata that gave the Spartans a first and goal from the five yard line. Ian Vena had a couple of runs that left the ball about half a yard shy of another 6 points and Amosa was sent back in to finish the job and put the game away. He never got the chance though as the centre exchange was fumbled and the ball popped out behind a pile of players in the middle of the field and was recovered by the Giants. It was returned down the left sideline and as the cover defence tried to get across, they were all a step too slow and the Giants looked to have completely reversed their fortunes with their first score of the game. As the runner approached the end zone, he looked back to see a flag on the play and a possible touchdown was negated by a penalty for a block in the back against one of the Spartans chasers.
This bought the ball all the way back to their 40 yard line and the Giants would have to start a new drive from there. The penalty was a big break for the Spartans as it meant that the Giants had to try and score against their tough defence and so far that had been an impossible task. It continued that way as the Spartans continued to completely shut down anything that the Giants offence tried to through at them. Whether it was power runs, quick passes or gadget plays like receiver reverse passes, the defence had an answer to every question posed to it by the Giants. The Spartans soon got the ball back but their second half offensive struggles continued as there were more fumbled snaps that put paid to any sort of momentum they were trying to build. Following this turnover the defence regained possession as a fumbled handoff to their running back gifted the ball to Henry Tauti who recovered the fumble near the line of scrimmage. With the game moving into the fourth quarter and still having a two score lead, the Spartans moved Peniata back to Quarterback but the results were the same as he heaved a third down pass downfield only for it to be picked off by the ball hawking Giant secondary once again. With time running out, the Porirua team had to take some more shots at long passes to give themselves a chance, but Safety Chris Toms made an athletic play on one of these deep balls and got the interception that iced the game for the Hutt Valley men. A scoreless second half for the second week in a row left the final score at 14 points to nil and the Spartans at the top of the AFW points table, one game ahead of the Porirua Giants and two ahead of the Wolves.
Special mentions go to the two players of the day. On offence one of the big rookie lineman who led the way for Amosa’s big statistical day, Esekia Tanu was rewarded for an aggressive and dominant display up front. The defensive Player of the Day went to another rookie, Ina Sione. He has three turnovers in his first two games, and he got the medal for a defensive effort that included two fumble recoveries and a team leading 7 tackles on the day. It wasn’t just the quantity of tackles either, as every one of them showed good technique and were definitely felt by the opposition.
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