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by Matt Kersten ( GreyStar )

West Coast’s forwards made it clear they were not willing to back down from a challenge as they held off East Coast’s massive pack in a wet, scrappy 15-11 victory at Rugby Park, Greymouth, on Saturday, to add the Arthur Wickes Memorial Trophy to their cabinet.

No 8 Suamalie Tuiletufuga was unstoppable at the back of the West Coast scrum, as he led an impressive forward effort against East Coast’s huge engine room. The loose forward’s first break allowed the hosts to get out of a threatening period on defence on their own line, and his second made crucial metres in a string of phases before West Coast’s first try, scored by Maleli Mudu.

His fellow forwards also performed excellently, particularly on defence. Their tackling, along with a greasy ball caused by light drizzle, continually prevented East Coast from gaining any momentum.

A strong northerly wind was the main influence throughout the match, resulting in most of the game being played at the southern end of the ground.

It allowed East Coast to take an 8-5 lead midway through the first half as it made for easy goal kicking for wing Kris Palmer, although it also put West Coast back in the front seat in the second period when Alan Monk charged over the tryline following a pin-point Tim Priest touch-finder.

Priest also booted a penalty with 25 minutes left in the game, the last scoring play after Palmer had added three at the other end.

West Coast’s weakness seemed to be in the back three, with young players like wing Beau Cain and replacement fullback Nathan Smith perhaps suffering from nerves as they fumbled the ball and missed several tackles.

Lock Ricky Waitoa was East Coast’s best, he hit the defence line hard whenever he carried the ball, scored a try in reply to Mudu’s, and even outpaced Mudu to prevent a try after a Priest chip kick.

After Saturday’s win, West Coast is sitting pretty at second equal on the Heartland Championship points ladder but it has perennial heavyweights North Otago and Wanganui among its final three opponents before the semi-finalists are sorted.

Wairarapa-Bush leads the competition on 20 points from Mid Canterbury and West Coast on 18. Buller, which beat Horowhenua-Kapiti 19-15 at Levin, is tied for third, with North Otago on 15 points and Wanganui is one adrift on 14.

West Coast will travel to Thames to meet Thames Valley this week, host North Otago at Rugby Park, and then finish pool play by travelling to meet Wanganui.

West Coast 15 (M Mudu, A Monk tries; T Priest pen, con)

East Coast 11 (R Waitoa try; K Palmer 2 pens).