Wests — shock 20-16 victors over South Westland a week earlier — looked well on course for a second giant-killing effort when deservedly leading Blaketown 20-12 with three-quarters of the match gone, but a previously lacklustre Blaketown finally came to life to snatch victory, with three tries in the last 20 minutes.
In other games, South Westland beat Marist 20-17, and Kiwi accounted for Grey Valley, 79-3.
Blaketown’s busy No 8 Brogan Watt led the resurgence with lock Alan Monk marginally behind. While his fellow forwards were on cruise control, Watt, again off the back of a struggling scrum, was full of running in an 80-minute effort.
Wests, claiming two tightheads, had an obvious advantage in the scrums but Blaketown dominated the lineouts, again with Monk and Watt to the fore, stealing many of Wests’ throws.
Wests first-five Nathan Smith was the star of an impressive backline which, using guile and pace, was a lot more creative than the black line, which relied on the strength of Phil and Rob Thompson to batter their way over the advantage line.
Loose forwards Sean Meldrum and Craig Douglas shone in the Wests pack along with front rower Chris Lord, while diminutive 17-year-old wing Nathaniel Hamilton played well above his weight to earn his team’s man of the match award.
Blaketown, aided be a strong tail wind, went straight on to the attack but struggled to cross the Wests line until Monk scored from a tap penalty.
The blacks, with the wind at their backs, spent most of the first half on attack but Wests made all their rare forays into opposition territory pay, firstly with a try to second-five Myson Teata, which levelled the scores at 5-5, and then a try to fullback Logan Ross, who juggled a high pass and scored to keep his team in contention at 10-12.Watt had scored the home team’s second try amid a 30m rolling maul, the try converted by Nik Cumming.
Wests claimed a 17-12 lead at the 32-minute mark, when Smith, with a double round and a couple of dummy passes, scythed through the opposition to score and convert. Smith then missed two difficult penalty kicks just before half-time but, soon after the restart, managed to bounce another difficult kick off the inside of an upright to stretch the lead to 20-12.
Wests, showing more tactical nous and keeping the blacks pinned deep in their half, looked on course for victory but, spurred on by a Phil Thompson try, and a Cumming penalty that leveled the scores 20-20, drew away with another rolling maul try to Kevin Curtis, converted by Cumming and a last-gasp try to halfback Luke Negri,who darted over after a ball had bobbled out the side to a scrum near the Wests line.
Marist coach Luke McNeish said his side fought back from a 10-0 deficit at half-time to lead the match with five minutes to go but were unable to clear the ball from their line in the dying minutes and South Westland capitalised.Giant lock Isei Ngasu starred in the green pack, scoring both tries, and flanker Sean Loveday produced another impressive performance.
French halfback Hugo Torres kicked a penalty and two conversions but his countryman, lock Sylvere Mathieu, suffered a season-ending facial injury requiring surgery in Christchurch.“We gave them too much of a start, managed to get the lead late, but then lost it,” McNeish said.
South Westland coach Grant Matheison was relieved that his side had prevailed in a “good old ding dong”.“We controlled the first half but they had the better of most of the second, until we got back in front at the end,” Mathieson said.
Man of the match, No 8 Josh Hill, was a tackling machine, while lock Neil Kelly relished the task of competing against the towering Ngasu in the lineouts. Halfback Kip Nolan was his usual classy self, controlling play well, along with Cory Deans.
South Westland 20 (C Nolan, J McRae tries, C Deans 2 pens, 2 cons)
Marist 17 (I Ngasu 2 tries, H Torres 2 cons, pen).
Kiwi player-coach Troy Tauwhare said new centre Mitchell Sione earned the man of the match award in his side’s romp over Grey Valley, but he was loath to sort out any others for praise.“It was pretty much a really good team effort with no one in particular standing out.”
Grey Valley player-coach Ben Ferguson said his side, decimated by off -season defections, showed marked improvement and was “turning the corner”.
Halfback Keith McLeod had another outstanding match to earn the man of the match award, while lock Kurt Decker and second-five Kevin Moore again proved his worth.
“We are taking things right back to basics. “It will take a while (to again compete with the best) but we are heading in the right direction and will get there,” Ferguson said.
Kiwi 73 (F Wilson 2, B McBride, S McClure, J Ferguson, D Tauwhare, C Andrews, D Thomson, N Turnbull, K Parker, M Sione, T Struthers tries; Struthers 8 cons, pen)
Grey Valley 3 (K Moore pen).
By Tui Bromley – GreyStar.co.nz