Blaketown surged to the top of West Coast rugby points table with a 28-12 victory over Grey Valley, at Ikamatua on Saturday.
Grey Valley, trailing 21-7 at the break, rallied in the second half but could not close the gap on Blaketown.
Blaketown coach Dan Keno said his team expected a tough match and got one.
First-five Jordan Campbell controlled play well, while young Mark Whitehead had an outstanding game as openside flanker.
“Having Gordie (Gordon Iafeta) made a big difference to the set piece, and the cool heads of Alan Monk and Nick Davy kept us on the right path,” Keno said.
Valley coach Ben Ferguson said a controversial try just before half-time took the score from 14-7 to 21-7 and effectively shut his side out of the match.
“Having said that, we probably lacked intensity on defence and that cost us in the end.”
New lock Francis Auwerda was man of the match, while flanker Sam King, second-five Kevin Moore and substitute Luke Hughes also shone.
Blaketown 28 (R Stanton 2, R Thomson, H Mahuika tries; B Cain 4 cons)
Grey Valley 12 (J Brown, K Moore tries; Moore con).
Marist, the previous leader, lost 10-15 to Kiwi at home in Hokitika, while an under-strength South Westland side accounted for Wests 26-3, at Ross.
Blaketown now has 27 points, Marist 26 and Kiwi 25, this trio each having won five games. South Westland (four wins) is next on 21 points, but the southerners lead the Muir Cup (second round) competition with 10 points. Kiwi, also with two wins, is second on that points ladder with nine points from Blaketown, seven, and Marist, six.
Marist, scoring two tries within the first 10 minutes, looked on course for an easy victory on a sodden Cass Square but Kiwi owned the second quarter and by half-time had squared the ledger 10-10.
A try to Kiwi halfback Jarrod Ferguson was the only score of a dour second half that was peppered with freezing rain showers. Marist were hammering at the Kiwi line at the finish, however, and several tries went begging because the final pass did not stick.
Marist coach Luke McNeish was lamenting a lack of discipline which saw lock Isei Lewaqai and first-five Maleli Mudu sin-binned by referee Jamie McGeady.
“We had to play 20 minutes with 14 men and that did not help us, but ultimately Kiwi adapted to the conditions better than us.”
McNeish was impressed with the work rate of prop Johnno Grant and fullback Josh Costello, who was Marist’s man of the match.
Kiwi’s powerful scrum, with skipper Troy Tauwhare and prop David Oates to the fore, had the edge over the green pack, while the backline, with Sean McClure and Todd Struthers proving elusive, made light of the boggy conditions.
Marist was granted an early penalty and opted to kick for the corner. The move worked when Costello scored from the resulting lineout. The lead was doubled shortly after when Lewaqai was Johnny on the spot to scoop up the ball and dive over after a team-mate had been tackled close to the line.
Marist had dominated possession up to that point but Kiwi, with the scrum gaining ascendancy and the backs spreading the ball wide at every opportunity, began to click and finally got on the scoresheet when impressive prop Oates crossed amid a rolling maul.
Then, just before half-time, Kiwi backs shifted good scrum ball the width of the paddock and Struthers crossed in the corner to level the scores 10-10.
The second half was an arm wrestle interrupted only by Ferguson’s try. However, Marist had chances to level the scores but failed to take them.
Kiwi 15 (T Struthers, J Ferguson, D Oates tries)
Marist 10 (I Lewaqai, J Costello tries).
South Westland, minus about 10 regulars on an overseas sojourn, still had too much firepower for Wests, the southerners making good use of the infamous Ross slope to extend a 7-3 half-time lead to 26-3 at the finish.
Wests’ coach Dicey Davidson said the match was in the balance at the break but his team struggled to make progress ‘uphill’ in the second spell. “We needed a little bit of luck at times and didn’t get it, but it was a good hard game,” Davidson said.
Halfback Jordan Ross, again clearing the ball well under pressure, was Wests man of the match, while Myson Teta and Ben Alexander combined well in midfield.
Prop Nathan Cook had another strong game, along with young hooker Anthony Barlow and wing Nathaniel Hamilton.
South Westland coach Grant Mathieson said some thought had been given to defaulting but the call went out for players during the week and the community responded.
“Player of the day, Josh Hill, led by example up front and fullback Jason Wright was outstanding, particularly on defence when others were tiring late in the game. His experience was crucial at times,” Mathieson said.
No 8 Eroni Ulioborutu and prop Jessie McRae were others to shine in the pack.
South Westland 26 (J Hill, E Uluiburotu, F Aldaiga tries; C Deans 3 cons)
Wests 3 (L Ross pen).
by Tui Bromley greystar.co.nz