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Pirtek NZRL National Premiership - Penny drops for Stallions

Pirtek NZRL National Premiership - Penny drops for Stallions

If Wai-Coa-Bay's dramatic come-from-way-behind Pirtek NZRL National Premiership win last week seemed like a misprint in the results column, you could probably be excused your cynicism.

After two big losses to open the season and down 28-10 just after halftime against Wellington Orcas, the Stallions suddenly (and almost inexplicably) clicked to run in six unanswered tries and register their first win.

For coach Tony Lajpold, that change may mark the turning point of a season that is as much about growing a culture as results on the field.

"I suppose this will give them a bit of confidence, if anything," he ponders. "About 70-80% of them have never played at this level before and they're now starting to see that the things we work on in training are starting to pay off."

So what caused such a remarkable about turn in mid-stream?

"To be honest, I think we were playing down to Wellington's level, bearing in mind they had some players out," says Lajpold.

"I think some of our players didn't really understand about lifting their mentality and how they had to earn a win. They were bringing their club mentality to rep football.

"But we talked tactically about what they had to do at half-time and our approach now is that we'd rather go down fighting on our feet than begging on our knees."

Wai-Coa-Bay face quite a different prospect this week, when they host Counties Manukau in Tauranga on Sunday.

The Stingrays have been mighty impressive since their first-round bye, overrunning Northern Swords (46-6) and Central Vipers (60-0) in successive weeks. They've enjoyed a gentle start to their schedule, but this will be their final hit-out before a grand-final rematch with Akarana Falcons next weekend.

"Every game is a tough challenge, when you're coaching young guys," says Lajpold.

"And although we won last week, we know we have to lift to another level, given the calibre of players that Counties Manukau have."

"But with what we're trying to achieve this year, as long as we continue to compete and keep learning, Wai-Coa-Bay will be better for it in coming years."

Elsewhere this weekend, champions Akarana hope to bounce back from their defeat in Christchurch, when they host the Orcas in Auckland, while the Swords are still chasing their first win, as they head to Wanganui for the Vipers.

Unbeaten Canterbury Bulls have the week off.


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