by Tui Bromley – Greystar.co.nz
A superb defensive effort at Rugby Park on Saturday carried Blaketown into the Taylorville Wallsend Cup grand final this weekend against last year’s beaten finalist, Kiwi.
After leading 14-6 at the break, Blaketown downed a strangely subdued Marist, 24-11.
Kiwi beat South Westland 89-26 a week ago but had a tougher tussle on Saturday, coming out on top 31-11.
In the other game, the young Wests team concluded a successful season with a 24-10 victory over Grey Valley in the McLean Shield final, which involved the bottom two teams.
Marist had beaten Blaketown 22-19 the previous week but it was apparent from the start that the men in black meant business on Saturday.
With a simple game plan of keeping play close to the forwards in a short passing game, the seagulls ground Marist into the submission, the greens not scoring a try until the 77th minute, when lock Isie Lewaqai crossed. All previous attacks foundered on a rock solid wall of black.
Ill discipline was again Blaketown’s Achille’s heal, Marist enjoying a 24-7 penalty count (10-5 at half-time), but this time the frequent indiscretions were relatively unpunished, whereas last week Hugo Torres’ boot supplied 17 points. To the chagrin of some loyal supporters, Marist ignored numerous chances to keep the scoreboard ticking over, in favour of tries which did not come, until it was all too little too late.
Lock Brad Houston was at his bustling best for Blaketown but the rest of the pack was not far behind, all standing up to be counted when the time came.
Captain Nik Davy, overshadowing Torres on this occasion, was in sparkling form at halfback, the Thompson brothers, Rob and Phil, ran hard and Luke Negri, replacing an injured James Ward, was a surprise package at second-five, causing the Marist defence many headaches.
Marist’s usually fluent backline struggled for cohesion, only looking dangerous on the rare occasions they got the ball out to the speedy wings, Gilbert Fahey and Melali Mudu.
The green scrum gradually gained ascendency as the game wound down but the lineouts were poor, hooker Ben Campbell struggling to find his jumpers. Flankers Sean Loveday and Sam Tau toiled hard and prop Greg Crampton was again prominent.
Marist halfback Hugo Torres and Phil Thomson traded penalties for a 3-3 scoreline before Torres added another three points from Marist’s fifth penalty.
However, Blaketown had made all the running and eventually Houston barged over from close quarter after the greens had defended many phases on their line, Phil Thompson somehow sending a simple conversion wide of the posts, 8-6.
Blaketown kept offending but Marist ignored several kicks at goal and paid the price when their attempts to score instead were repelled by the black wave.
Phil Thompson, however, relished his next opportunity, guiding the ball between the posts for an 11-6 lead at the 30-minute mark and he was to add another (a Torres attempt from 40m had missed) to give his side a 14-6 lead at the break.
Four penalties in quick succession gave Marist further scoring opportunities early in the second spell, but the best of them resulted in a long range Torres penalty bouncing back off an upright, while Phil Thompson again made no mistake at the other end, his fourth penalty taking the score to 17-6.
The penalties kept coming and Marist kept ignoring them, and Phil Thompson made them pay when tip-toeing down the sideline before putting first-five Nik Cumming over under the bar and then adding the conversion, 24-6.
Marist did have the final say, when Lewaqai crossed too wide out for Torres to convert, 24-11.
Meanwhile, Kiwi, which beat South Westland 89-26 a week ago, had a tougher tussle on Saturday, coming out on top 31-11 to win a place in the grand final against Blaketown.
Player-coach Troy Tauwhare said his team was looking forward to the final.
“We were rapt when we heard that Blaketown won the other game. It couldn’t be better the two best teams fighting it out on Rugby Park, can’t wait for it.”
South Westland forwards hammered the Kiwi line for long periods, but the blue defence held solid.
“Prop Daniel Ford stood out for us with his ball carrying and hard defence and the old boy, Kyle Parker, showed his class when he came on at halfback. Kyle just keeps on getting better,” Tauwhare said.
South Westland coach Grant Mathieson was lamenting an injury laden season which again prevented him from putting his A team on the paddock. “Having said that, all the boys played well, I’m pretty chuffed with them. We had a sniff of a victory at one stage but in the end, Kiwi were too good.”
Mathieson said South Westland’s “quiet achiever” Neil Kelly had an outstanding game in the No 6 jersey, while halfback Robbie
Lash and first-five Kip Nolan produced their usual strong performances.
“We gave it our best and now it’s onwards to next season,” Mathieson said.
Kiwi 31 (P Te Rakau, S McClure 2, M Olson, T Struthers tries; Struthers 2, D Tauwhare cons)
South Westland 11 (J Hill try, C Deans 2 pens).
Wests’ long-awaited comeback into the top echelons of West Coast rugby is all-but complete after the young, lightweight side beat a much bigger and experienced Grey Valley unit 24-10 to win the McLean Shield.
Wests hit rock bottom about three years ago and went 30 months without a victory, until the drought ended with a win over South Westland in the first round this season.
It soon added a victory over Grey Valley to that result and has since beaten the Ikamatua-based side twice more, including the final on Saturday, to the jubilation of a loyal band of supporters.
Head coach Dicey Davidson said it had been a long, slow climb from the bottom and he was full of pride for his team.
“That win on Saturday confirmed that we are heading in the right direction and we can look forward to the next season with confidence,
I couldn’t be more pleased for the boys and for the club,” Davidson said.
He also played tribute to his co-coaches Lyn Ross and Michael Foster, who had moulded the youngsters into a cohesive winning unit.
Lock Lee Davidson took his play to another level to win the man of the match award, while fellow lock Bazza Slaven and loosie Nick Monk also starred in the pack. Halfback Jordan Ross was the consummate link between forwards and backs, and centre Geoff Garland was again strong in midfield.
However, Wests is a team in every sense of the word and all players contributed to the McLean Shield win in some fashion.
Grey Valley’s overall player of the year, John Brown, had a strong
game at No 8 and was rewarded with a try.
Flanker Sam King also scored, while wing Joseph Mueller finished his season on a strong note.
Wests 24 (J Garland, N Cook, L Tekira, N Smith tries; Smith, L Ross cons)
Grey Valley 10 ( S King, J Brown tries).