NPC: Rene Ranger celebrates 100th match to inspire Northland to upset win over Waikato

Age is just a number for six-test All Black Rene Ranger, who celebrated his 100th match for Northland by inspiring them to a monster upset win over Waikato, by 38-28 on Friday.

The 35-year-old centre, who made his debut in Cambridge blue in 2006, was everywhere on Semenoff Stadium in Whangarei as the hosts stunned the Premiership leaders with a five tries to four victory.

The hugely popular Ranger earned a special presentation from his rugby union as Northland’s 25th centurion, and was honoured by team-mates with a stirring haka after fulltime.Only the hardiest Northland fans would have backed them to topple Waikato, after a horror start of four losses and 181 points conceded, the latest defeat to Manawatu the previous weekend.

But led by Ranger’s energy they flew into their work despite a backpedalling scrum, and roared to a 24-7 halftime lead which they never relinquished despite some late wobbles.Even a hat-trick from livewire Waikato right wing Liam Coombes-Fabling, the NPC’s leading tryscorer with six, couldn’t overhaul the home side.Coombes-Fabling’s third try, after super leadup work from first-five Fletcher Smith, gave Waikato hope at 31-28 down with seven minutes remaining.

But Northland stormed back onto attack and weren’t giving this one away on Ranger’s big night. After hooker Jordan Olsen was dragged down just short, flanker Sam McNamara galloped away for the clincher in the 79th minute to spark wild celebrations for coach George Konia’s men.

Coming off a win over Tasman, Waikato were crucially reduced to 14 men for the final 10 minutes after replacement D’Angelo Leuila was yellow carded by referee Mike Fraser for a lifting tackle.Ranger set up a first half try for flanker Kara Pryor with a dummy and break through a yawning gap. Northland scored some gems as their skill level was superior to Waikato’s, none better than a set move which saw halfback Sam Nock score from a Pisi Leilua break.

Second five-eighth Blake Hohaia struck the killer blow six minutes into the second half with a brilliant solo try which saw the advantage blow out to 31-14. Nock and lock Josh Goodhue were others to stand out in a super team effort.

Waikato flanker Mitch Jacobson caused havoc at the breakdown while Coombes-Fabling and fellow wing Mosese Dawai were a constant menace on attack, but the visitors weren’t accurate enough for long enough to repel the men in blue.

By admin