In a free-flowing encounter, despite slippery underfoot conditions, West Coast repelled their first Seddon Shield challenger, downing Marlborough 28-18 at Rugby Park.
After fighting back from a 28-11 deficit midway through the second spell, the Red Devils poured on the pressure towards the end but the same tenacious defence that had allowed the Coasters to claim the shield off Nelson Bays last year kept the visitors at bay.
The sides traded early penalties, to West Coast first five-eighth Tim Priest and his counterpart, Marlborough’s Brandyn Laursen, before the first try came in the 16th minute. Fittingly NZ Heartland XV player Priest, who had a major impact on the match, scored the five pointer and converted it, after a Marlborough misread on defence.
From the restart, Marlborough replied immediately, with tighthead prop Fetu Ieremia crossing the line after a series of phases. The Marlborough try wasn’t converted, leaving Coast with a two point lead which Priest increased to five with another penalty before Laursen landed his second to narrow the gap again.
Three minutes before halftime Coast struck a decisive blow when centre Josh Costello scored off a Priest pass to hand the home side an 18-11 advantage at the break.
Seven minutes after oranges the home side were at it again, Brad Houston taking advantage of another defensive lapse to touch down, with Priest converting. Another Priest penalty 10 minutes later extended the holders’ lead to 28-11, leaving Marlborough in catch-up mode. A second try to Ieremia with 10 minutes to go offered the challengers’ hope, but time ran out quicker than the Coast defence tired.
Red Devils coach Mark Stewart bemoaned his side’s mistake rate and defensive frailties. “We played really well at times, we had so many opportunities, and it was just our execution that let us down. Dropped balls at the wrong times. I don’t think they were any better than us – we just couldn’t finish it. Our ball security, especially in good attacking positions, was poor.
“Then a couple of defensive lapses on our part let them score . . . that was about it really.”
Stewart was pleased with Marlborough’s set pieces, the scrum picking up a couple of tight heads, “but we just couldn’t string the phases together. And when we did we panicked.
“It was a funny old game actually, I sort of think we lost it more than they won it. But having said that [Coast] defended really well.”
Stewart said skipper Reyne Volavola had one of his better games in the red jersey while youngster Vaea Samasoni impressed when he came on as No 8. Double try-scorer Ieremia and fellow prop Riley Luke also stood out, providing a good foundation up front.
West Coast coach Allan Lindsay was understandably happy with the result and pinpointed a couple of players who he felt made a difference. “Our scrum was under the pump initially, but our seven Josh Hill was still getting turnovers. He got five turnovers in the game with good number seven work.
“Also our halfback, Nick Makea, attacked their halfback around the scrum and we got two or three turnovers there, too. It negated a bit of the dominance [Marlborough] had with the scrum.
“The game was relatively even, but those tries either side of halftime meant we were always ahead from then on,” said Lindsay. He also mentioned fullback Jason Wright and second five Sean McClure, plus hard-working loosie Alan Monk, as key performers
West Coast 28 (Tim Priest, Josh Costello, Brad Houston tries, Priest 2 con, 3 pen)
Marlborough 18 (Fetu Ieremia 2 tries, Brandyn Laursen 2 pen, Jeremy Manning con)
HT 18-11 West Coast.
Troy Tauwhare (c)