by Tui Bromley – greystar.co.nz
A try to Marist fullback Liam Hewlett on Saturday was the defining moment for the 2014 rugby season for both his team and, South Westland which was jostling with Marist on the points ladder.
Had the try not been scored Marist and South Westland would have been tied on points but the southerners would have earned a semi-final spot by virtue of a better for and against record.
However, the bonus point from Hewlett’s touchdown tipped the scales in Marist’s favour and they will now go on to meet Kiwi in one semi-final while Grey Valley hosts Blaketown in the other at Ikamatua.
South Westland came oh so close to deciding their own future with a victory over Kiwi but eventually had to be content with a 20-20 draw while the match between Grey Valley and Wests was called off early due to a back injury to West’s lock Cameron Smith. Grey Valley were leading 21-6 at the time.
West Coast Rugby Union chief executive, Mike Connors, said that the decision to call a halt to the match was a safety precaution, officials being reluctant to move the injured player until St John arrived from Reefton.
Wests’ coach, Kevin Church said that Smith had been cleared of lasting injury but: “it will be some time before he’s fully recovered.”
Church said that the injury came at an inopportune time because the younger and fitter Wests side was just assuming diminance and were finishing strongest.
“The boys were playing out of their skins and, had the game continued would have had every show of an upset,” he said. ‘They all played well but Jordan Ross had a top game at halfback and fullback Logan Ross ran the ball back at them well.”
Kiwi player coach Dan Tauwhare said it was a real arm-wrestle at Whataroa, the scores also being tied 13-13 at the break. Wing Brent McBride (two tries) and centre Jamie Kearns were Kiwi’s players of the day.
“All our forwards played well, South Westland were pretty good up front but we matched them.”
South Westland’s coach, Grant Mathieson said that his players were “guttered” when the news filtered through that Marist had beaten Blaketown.
“We thought that we had done enough (to earn a semi-final) but it wasn’t to be.”
Mathieson said it was the South Westlands best team effort of the season but first five Cory Deans hogged the points scoring with two tries, two conversions a penalty and a field goal.
“Hooker Mike Riley led the pack well, he was all over the place and lock Lucas Symminton won us a lot of good ball.”
Marist dominated Blaketown up front, their scrum marching the opposition back at will and the lineout claiming many of the opposition’s throws. Meanwhile the Green backs, marshalled by first five Nathan Smith were showing more cohesion and better ball skills that their opposites who either kicked or bumbled the ball into Marist hands.
By the time the Blacks put the boot away and started to string phases together it was too late but the change of attitude was rewarded with two late tries to narrow the winning margin to four.
Alan Monk had a busy game in the Black pack but had little support while Marist loosies, Ben Campbell and Sam Tau were prominent along with lock Gabriel Waipouri.
Smith put the Greens up 7-0 with a long solo try and subsequent conversion and a Josh Costello try (again converted by Smith) on the back of a strong Campbell run, put the home team up 14-0 after 20 minutes.
Blaketown’s reply was immediate, wing, Beau Cain snaring the kickoff amid the Marist forwards and darting along the touchline to score before Mudu broke free from a maul and easily side stepped Robert Thomson to score. Smith again added the extras but but Blaketown had the final say of the half when Nik Davy scooted over from a ruck near the Marist line and Cain popped over the conversion 21-12.
Marist fullback, Hewlett, evading tackles with ease, scored early in the second half and a Smith penalty advanced the lead to 29-12 before a late Blaketown flurry brought tries to Monk and Brad Houston, one converted by Cain, closed the gap to 29-24 before the final whistle blew.
Marist 29 (L Hewlett, J Costello, N Smith, M Mudu tries; Smith 3 cons, pen)
Blaketown 24 (N Davy, B Houston, A Monk, B Cain tries; Cain 2 cons).
South Westland 20 ( C Deans 2 tries, 2 cons, pen, field goal)
Kiwi 20 (B McBride 2 tries, S McClure 2 cons, 2 pens)
Grey Valley 21 ( M Sweeney, D Crouchley, N Makea tries, T Priest 3 cons)
Wests 6 (L Ross 2 pens).