The West Coast rugby team sits at the top of the Heartland Championship points ladder alongside Mid-Canterbury and Wairarapa Bush, thanks to a 33-18 bonus-point victory over Thames Valley, at Thames, on Saturday.
The current West Coast crop has been setting records all season and added another on Saturday by winning their second away game in succession to become tantalisingly close to being assured of a Meads Cup semi-final.
There is no place for complacency in the Coast camp, though, because its next two games are against North Otago, who sit in third place three points behind the joint leaders, and then Wanganui.
West Coast coach Alan Lindsay said the victory was built on a sterling first-half effort into a powerful wind.
The home team led 13-12 at the break but with captain Tim Priest using the wind wisely, and kicking a whopping 62m penalty, the Coast side ran away with the second half.
Prop Heroshi Tea, No 8 Suamalie Tuiletuguga, hooker Rowan O’Gorman and centre Kevin Moore scored for West Coast, and Priest kicked three penalties and two conversions.
Lindsay said halfback Nick Makea kept the ball close to the pack into the wind, guiding the forwards well. The centre pairing of Andrew Connors and Kevin Moore was strong in midfield and fullback Robert Thomson made some telling runs.
“The pack, a bit quiet last week, was back to its best with J J Manning and Kalava Aualitia dominating the lineouts and Sweets (Suamalie Tuiletuguga) running powerfully off the back of the scrum,” Lindsay said.
“Sweets was so hard to stop that he saw two No 7s off with injury so that was a bit of a help to us.”
Lindsay said flanker Josh Hill had been one of the best tacklers all season and really shone in that regard in the first half on Saturday.
The Coast team will face their biggest hurdle of the season when they host the North Otago juggernaut at Rugby Park, on Saturday.
North Otago surprisingly lost its first two games of the season to Wairarapa Bush and South Canterbury, but have won all four since, piling on 53 points against Poverty Bay and beating Wanganui 27-15 in the last two.
After the eighth round the bottom four will be culled from the competition, while the top quartet play off for the Meads Cup and the teams ranked fiftth to eighth contest the Lochore Cup.
The Coast team can not be tipped out of the top eight but losses in the next two games could push them out of contention for the Meads Cup.
by Tui Bromley ( Grey Star )