by Tui Bromley – greystar.co.nz
Diminutive wing Keith McLeod sparked a strong second-half comeback to allow the Grey Valley rugby team to overhaul Blaketown, at Ikamatua on Saturday.
The blacks held a 14-3 half-time lead after Grey Valley’s ill-discipline gifted them a raft of penalties, good field position and what should have been an unbeatable lead, but valley scored 17 unanswered second-half points for a 20-14 victory.
In other games, Kiwi maintained their unbeaten record without raising a sweat — Marist, also unbeaten heading into the match, defaulted about an hour before the scheduled start in Hokitika, while South Westland beat Wests 38-8.
“We played 20 minutes with just 14 men (two sin-bins) but Blaketown missed a heap of penalties, which let us off the hook, really,” Grey Valley coach Tere Wycliffe said.
Regan Stanton and Robert Thomson had scored first-half tries, converted by Phil Thomson for Blaketown while all Grey Valley had on the scoreboard at the break was a Tim Priest penalty.
However, valley with No 8 Pete Nicholls at his bruising best, dominated the second spell, with tries to halfback Nick Makea and wing McLeod and a field goal and two conversions to Priest.
McLeod’s classy transition from halfback to wing earned him the man of the match award. Besides scoring a try he also saved two by standing his ground and driving back much bigger opponents on the line.
“Priestie again controlled play well and took the points on offer. Including the two pre-season games, he has so far just missed one kick at goal,” Wycliffe said.
Manager Gavin Davy said Blaketown were guilty of trying to play Grey Valley at their own game in the second half, going away from the game plan and conceding two tries because of it.
“We had no possession in the third quarter, which really hurt our efforts, but valley played well and to their strengths in the second half. Rob Thomson was our player of the day but everyone in the team played well, from the new, less experienced guys to the old heads,” Davy said.
Halfback Kip Nolan was the star of the show as the South Westland rugby team strode to a 38-8 victory over Wests, at Hari Hari.
Nolan included three tries in his usual busy match to claim his team’s main man of the match award.
South Westland flanker Neil Kelly and hard-running centre Nathan Blackburn were others singled out for praise by coach Grant Mathieson, who was again lamenting an injury toll.
“We only had 18 players and lost Cory Deans and Blair Jenkins to injury, but we got 40 minutes out of Ryan Kennedy, who just returned from a long lay-off and he made a big difference to the pack,” Mathieson said.
“I was pleased how we stuck to the game plan of kicking to the corners, giving the big boys up the front a chance to use their size advantage.”
Logan Ross scored all Wests’ points with a try and a penalty.
Meanwhile coaching in the modern era is not for the faint hearted, as Marist mentor Luke McNeish found about 1.30pm on Saturday. McNeish, who had 10 players missing for various reasons, knew after training on Thursday that he would be a little light on numbers on Saturday but he expected at least to field a full team. However, one player was a late withdrawal because his wife went into labour and two others simply failed to turn up at the clubrooms.
“We were ringing everyone we could, but in the end would have had a maximum of 13 players and we couldn’t have been competitive with that,” McNeish said.
“It’s very disappointing — we have effectively gifted Kiwi the New Forrest Cup.”