Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens’s scores hat trick in final

Saturday, Jul 23 2022

Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens’s scores hat trick in final

Will Johnston

Photo: LDV Photography

Tukapa fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens was lost for words after the CMK premier grand final on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Blues representative scored a hat-trick of tries in the 22-21 win against Clifton at Vogeltown Park on Saturday.

It was Tukapa’s 18th title and fourth in seven years, ironically claimed at the home of cross-town rivals New Plymouth Old Boys (NPOB).

“I’m stuffed from the game,” an exhausted Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens said after a physical, free-flowing encounter.

“Full credit to the boys up front, they set us a real good platform for the backs, and I was lucky to be the recipient on the end of things.”

Seeded second heading into the final, Tukapa suffered a blow before kick-off with both first-five eight Jayson Potroz and prop Scott Mellow ruled out because of injury. That left Mason Porteous and Brendon Dent to fill the positions from off the bench at late notice.

Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens was aware punters backed Clifton, especially after they were unbeaten in the second round and the pre-match scare but he embraced the underdog tag.

“We came in with nothing to lose and took it on a personal note losing to Clifton in the round robin. We wanted to come here and enjoy the week and hopefully it showed in our performance.”

Tukapa coach Ben Siffleet said Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens was outstanding, not only in the match, but throughout the season.

“He’s been huge on Tuesday-Thursday helping the boys out, he’s been massive.”

Siffleet admitted he was relieved after feeling stressful during the game, which was on a knife edge.

“Clifton brought it to us for the full 80 [minutes]. The boys fronted and we did the job.”

All Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens’ tries came at perfect times for Tukapa.

His first was after Clifton’s Cole Blyde scored the first of the day under the posts. Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens worked hard to score as he found space against the run of play. It allowed Porteous to add the extras for Tukapa to take the lead for the first time.  

After electing the lineout, instead of the points, Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens struck back for his second a few minutes before halftime to give his team a 17-7 lead at the break.

Clifton bounced back to keep the score tight with a try from Taranaki’s Daniel Rona immediately after halftime. It was his first of two tries during the game with his second edging his team to a 21-17 lead after the successful conversion from Matty James. Rona finished off the movement, but it was replacement Api Dawai who made a 60m break down field to set it up for his team.

After attacking for a period of play, Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens scored his third, which put Tukapa back in the lead.

Dawai was sent to the sinbin by referee Cam Stone, who officiated his 100th premier match and fourth final overall, after the try for cynical play close to his line.

Clifton had a chance to steal the victory with a potential drop kick attacking on Tukapa’s 22m line, like they did in 1999 against NPOB in their last title but it was turned over.

In other finals, NPOB claimed the Division one title with a 27-12 win over Tukapa, Kaitake finished their season unbeaten beating Kaponga 36-10 in Division 2 and NPOB won the colts grade with a 33-7 win against Stratford/Eltham.