by Julian Lee ( 24/04/2013 GreyStar )
Local club rugby does not get much better than the Grey Valley v Blaketown game for the Forrest Cup on Saturday, at McLean Park, with Blaketown stealing a 35-19 victory against their rural opponents to take out the first prize for the season.
The game started unusually slowly, with both sides bracing themselves and trying to get used to the strong easterly wind gusting out from the hills, which kept half the spectators in their cars on the hill but gave no side an obvious advantage.
The deadlock was broken 15 minutes into the game, when Blaketown upped the ante and started applying pressure, allowing second-five Robert Thompson to score a try, converted by fullback Beau Cain.
Cain managed a penalty kick to push the score out 10-0, but by this time Valley had had enough and started committing fully to the game.
Thirty-two minutes in, Valley took advantage of a dropped ball by Cain and a lost mark to steal some big territory and assemble a great rolling maul resulting in their first-five Tim Priest scoring a try, which he converted.
Blaketown started the second half with a roar, Cain and No 8 Brad Houston making themselves known to their enemies from the get-go. Cain also helped to set up a try by winger Tyler Davy five minutes into the second half, putting the score at 15-7 to Blaketown.
The fun really began 55 minutes into the game, when Priest was roughly tackled and Valley openside Sam Dredge retaliated with his fists and was sent off with a yellow card as Valley fans screamed murder from the sidelines.
Blaketown made sure they grabbed the opportunity, with a try by Davy set up by centre Regan Stanton, which was converted. The play was starting to get rough, with players on both sides dealing out vigorous tackling, some of which raised eyebrows.
Christchurch referee Paul Cooper soon showed concern about the game getting out of control and yellow-carded Houston, leaving Blaketown with only 14 players for the rest of the game.Valley was on a revenge mission now and charged at Blaketown, Priest scoring and converting a second try.
Blaketown was furious and Valley backs were unable to stop Davy scoring a second try with only seven minutes to go, putting Blaketown ahead 27-14. But the few minutes left on the game meant diddly squat to Valley, whose backline really came together with some great runs and loosehead veteran Dave Crouchley scoring.
It was now an impossibly tight match in the last three minutes but a successful penalty kick by Cain convinced Valley to give up hope, with Davy scoring a last-minute hat-trick.
In Harihari, South Westland earned a fairly straightforward victory against the beleaguered Wests with a 29-0 win, the first game of the season in which Wests have had no tries or points on the board.
Kiwi only narrowly beat what is becoming a resurgent Marist, 17-15, evidence that Marist is on the up and up and could pose a serious threat to other teams in the Muir Trophy round.
Blaketown 35 (T Davy 3, P Thompson, R Thompson tries; B Cain 2 pens, 2 cons)
Grey Valley 19 (T Priest 2, Dave Crouchley tries; T Priest 2 cons);
South Westland 29 (C Deans 2, R Wilson, R Campbell, C Nolan tries)
Kiwi 17 (M Brown 2, S McClure tries; S McClure con)
Marist 15 (G Crampton, C Smith, M Galbraith tries).