A second-half rally from Marist helped them overcome a 12-point half-time deficit to narrowly win a close contest against South Westland at Rugby Park on Saturday afternoon.
The home side, 12 points down at the break, put on an impressive display in the second 40 to beat their southern rivals 24-22.
Meanwhile, Wests’ early mistakes cost them dearly as they went down 38-19 at the hands of Blaketown, while a makeshift Grey Valley backline was unable to stop the Kiwi juggernaut, steamrolling the bottom-of-the-table valley side 68-26.
Marist enjoyed all of the early dominance, however a number of handling errors saw them butcher a number of early opportunities to score. But a swift backline move saw scrum-half Hugo Torres dive over for a try. However, a sloppy restart saw the southern visitors hit back immediately at the other end of the field.
South Westland’s dominance up front meant the Marist scrum was going backwards for most of the first half, and they turned that pressure into points, a blindside move from the scrum sending Fai Aldaiga over for an easy try. A couple of pick and goes saw south go into the break 12 points ahead.
However, just three minutes into the second half Marist lock Isei Lewaqai surged over for a try, followed by Fahey on 62 minutes.
A penalty with 11 minutes to go saw Marist take the lead, and despite some desperate South Westland attacks in the final minutes, the Greymouth side claimed the win. Marist coach Andy MacKenzie said they were lucky not to rue their early mistakes.
“We should have really had it sewn up by the end of the first half. South Westland defended really well in the first half and we had a lot of the ball, but we didn’t really do as much as we could with it. There were too many mistakes and 50-50 passes and they cost us. We should never have had to chase that game,” MacKenzie said.
South Westland coach Grant Mathieson said injuries played a big part in his side relinquishing the lead in the second half.
“I thought we broke their back in the first half after weathering that storm for half an hour … but we had a couple of injuries that made a hell of a difference, and they started dominating us.” Mathieson said star No 8 Eroni Ulioborutu had to leave the field after he broke his thumb in two places.
Three early tries to Blaketown proved too big a lead for Wests to overcome as they slid to a 38-19 defeat.
Wests coach Dicey Davidson said the early scores proved too big a task. “I’m disappointed in the fact we let Blaketown gather 21 points from three converted tries in the very early stages of the game, that’s where we lost the game and we were playing catch up rugby,” Davidson said.
“There were a couple of mistakes from our senior players that put us in that situation.”
Wests managed to close the gap to 10 points, before Blaketown eventually ran away with the game.
However, Davidson praised the front row performance of Nathan Cook, Mark Waller and Anthony Barlow as “better than previous games, which was good to see”.
A rejigged Grey Valley backline was unable to stop Kiwi ‘blowing out’ to a 68-26 win on Cass Square.
The home side racked up nine tries on the day, with Sean McClure, Matt Olson and Horano Wilson each claiming a brace of five-pointers.
Kiwi manager Nui Tainui said that despite turning up with an understrength side, dominance up front proved too much for valley.
“We went there with an understrength side, but the forwards laid down a really good platform and the backs were too strong. We were always comfortably in control, but Grey Valley are a hard team, they have a hard pack and they never gave up, even when the score started to blow out.”
Grey Valley coach Ben Ferguson said the valley side managed to put on their highest points tally of the season, however defensive blunders ultimately cost them.
“The score flattered them (Kiwi). I felt we did take our opportunities when we had them, but just a few mistakes in our defence cost us. We also had an unorthodox backline, which was pretty effective when they fired,” Ferguson said.
Joseph Muller, John Brow, Kurt Becker and Matt Sweeney all chipped in with tries, and Feguson gave particular credit to Becker and Nathan Waghorn, who converted three.
Ben Aulakh – Grey Star.co.nz