The Canterbury Bulls’ caused an upset win over reigning premiers, Akarana Falcons, coming away with a 28 – 18 victory, showing they’re one to watch in this year’s competition.
Co-captain Tevin Arona scored a hat-trick and scrumhalf Brad Campbell and loose forward Michael Butson also had standout games. Canterbury’s 17-year-old second rower, Caius Fa’atili, impressed on the day with pace and a dominant defensive performance.
Eiden Ackland opened the scoring for Akarana early in the game which was soon followed by an impressive long-range intercept try as Akarana’s, Simon Luafaleao ran almost 80 metres to score.
The Bulls rebounded from a 12-0 deficit to score 26 unanswered points against Akarana, despite being without two of their team leaders, captain James Baxendale and Rulon Nutira.
The Bulls unleashed four tries in the second half, after some impressive approach play by Fa’atili, Ilalio and Danny Latu.
Game one saw the Counties Manukau Stingrays score 11 tries to beat Waikato 62-16. Counties were dominant across the park with Prop Connor Taurua-Purcell grabbing a hat-trick for the Stingrays with second-rower Nicholas Halalilo and wing Geronimo Doyle both scoring twice.
Canterbury Bulls 28 (Tevin Arona 3, Ben Ilalio, Justin Lynch, Regan Stanton tries; Caius Fa’atalii 2 goals) Akarana Falcons 18 (Eiden Ackland, Simon Luafaleao, Sam Fa’apito tries; Francis Leger 3 goals).
Counties Manukau Stingrays 62 (Connor Purcell 3, Nicholas Halalilo 2, Geronimo Doyle 2, Erin-Wayne Clark, Junior Tukinga, James Dowie, Richard Holani tries; Drew Radich 9 goals) Waikato 16 (Pawhare Brown, Duane Sykes, Caleb McLean tries; Hayden Karena 2 goals).