Courtesy of the Greymouth Star
by Brett Kokshoorn
Grey Valley stole a 26-22 victory over Blaketown on Saturday in a titanic battle right to the very end.
Blaketown looked the better team for a lot of the game and despite the close scoreline, looked the hungrier of the two sides, largely on the back of a big defensive effort, often repelling numerous Valley raids on their own line.
The strong forward pack kept Valley in the game and they started to completely dominate the scrums in the second half.
Play in the first half see-sawed as both teams defended well and did not give the other too many opportunities, second-five Phil Thomson went off early with a knee injury but Blaketown went into half-time with a deserved narrow lead, 15-12.
In the second half, Blaketown came out firing and enjoyed a lot of the early possession going into score early to stretch the lead to 22-12.
Valley struck back with a converted try of their own to close the gap to 22-19. Blaketown then held on to their lead staunchly with some brilliant team defence right across the park, but Valley started to really pile on the pressure, especially in the last 10 minutes going close many times, only to be denied by the Blaketown defence. Blaketown made some changes in their front row in the second half and the Valley pack took advantage, completely dominating the scrums for most of the second half and ultimately leading them to sneak the victory.
In the last five minutes Valley were on a relentless charge on the Blaketown line and leading up to the last play they were awarded penalty after penalty including several scrum penalties against them. Unfortunately this was their only downfall as Valley were awarded a 5m attacking scrum right before the final whistle and got another push on, with the Blaketown scrum going backwards.
Under immense pressure the referee had no choice but to award a penalty try, sneaking the victory for the visitors. After holding them back for so long it was a cruel way for Blaketown to just lose at the last hurdle, but a reminder of just how a dominant scrum can help win a rugby match.
For Grey Valley, first-five Kahu Tamatea directed play well for the backs and centre Brad Ferguson ran the ball well. The entire front row had big games, particularly in the scrums, openside Steve Soper was busy and No 8 Tyler Kearns had a big game, proving hard to put down all day, grabbing two tries along the way.
Blaketown’s experienced Rob Thomson led from the front with several busts and breaks on attack and also scoring a try, and lock Brett Haugh was impressive all game. In the backs, Brogan Jackson directed well from halfback, Denzel Chiznui had many breaks out wide, as did Mason Hunt and Beau Cain, who finished well to score two tries.
Blaketown started the game on the front foot by scoring the first try after some good forward lead-up work and after a break from Phil Thomson, Beau Cain went over in the corner. Valley hit back not long after with big No 8 Tyler Kearns going over for his first off the back of an attacking 5m scrum after the Blaketown fullback took the ball back and forced in his own in goal.
After a good period of possession and pressure on the Valley defence, Blaketown were awarded a penalty and Cain slotted from right in front to go up 10-5. Grey Valley struck back when Kearns went over for his second, finishing off some forward pick and goes, Blaketown managed to contain the big No 8 for most of the game, except for the two tries, with some courageous tackling.
Blaketown then had the last say in the half. Brogan Jackson spotted some space out wide and passed to lock Brett Haugh, who sent a lovely cut out pass wide to Cain to scoot 20m down the sideline and take the score to 15-12 at the half.
Blaketown came out firing in the second half and were on the front foot early, culminating in a try to Rob Thomson. It started with Jackson kicking a loose ball through behind the Valley defence, resulting in the ball being taken back and forced in goal for an attacking 5m scum. Thomson took the ball off the back strongly to score and stretch the lead out to 22-12.
Valley were then camped on attack on the Blaketown line and started a rolling maul from an attacking lineout for openside Steve Soper to peel off the back and score a converted try, narrowing the gap to 22-19.
From here on, play was tight and the pressure was on. Valley missed two penalty shots at goal from semi difficult range and Blaketown missed a sitter right in front.
Valley started to get some real momentum and started threatening to score. The Blaketown defence stood tall but started infringing and conceding too many penalties, a few of which were scrum penalties with Valley getting the push on every scum.
In the last roll of the dice for Valley in the dying minutes they got another push on in an attacking 5m scrum, pushed right to the tryline and the No 8 picked up and went over. The try was inconclusive but that was irrelevant because the referee awarded a penalty try anyway to snatch the game away from Blaketown, making Grey Valley the victors 26-22.
Blaketown have improved vastly as the season has gone on and the two teams now look to be evenly matched, with only one round remaining before the finals.
Grey Valley coach Stu Anderson said they knew it would be a close game but they managed to scratch out the win.
Their discipline was improved compared to other games and he was happy with the reserves and the whole squad of 22. Steve Soper stood out in the forwards and Kahu Tamatea in the backs.
Blaketown coach Brent Aitken said his boys stood up and he was pleased with the whole team.
Ball security in contact let them down and the passing was a bit wayward, but the defence was great.
Aitken took his hat off to Grey Valley, as they stuck at it and did not rest on their laurels.
Saracen McLeod and Rob Thomson had good games in the forwards, and Beau Cain and Mason Hunt in the backs.
Grey Valley 26 (T Kearns 2, S Soper, penalty try, T Joass 2 conv) Blaketown 22 (B Cain 2, R Thomson tries, B Cain 2 con,1 pen)
South Westland beat Wests 24-12, in Hari Hari.
South Westland coach Terry McBride said his team started well in the first 15 minutes and made the right decisions at the right times and although they slackened off a bit they were still up 14-0 at half-time.
They finished well and it was great to get the bonus point heading into the final round.
Jesse Sullivan and Theo Deaker stood out in the forwards, and Kip Nolan and Jesse Perrian in the backs, but McBride stressed it was a great all-round team effort.
Wests coach Mike Foster said it was a close game.
With several key players still unavailable through injuries, Wests have been hit hard and training has been a bit disjointed. As a result, having some playing in different positions has not helped but everyone stood up on the day.
Foster said South Westland were a bit big in the forwards.
Tyler Lilley was man of the match for Wests, and Josh Tomlinson stood out as usual. Sean Slaven coming back from injury for his first game of the season played well and Jeff Garland stood out, playing first-five again.
Marist defaulted again, this time to Kiwi. It was a late default and Kiwi had already arrived in Greymouth when they were informed of the default.
Marist coach Grant Olsen said he had 19 players but six pulled out late due to injury and work commitments, which took them down to only 13.
Kiwi coach Troy Tauwhare said it was frustrating, but there are no hard feelings from his team, who instead had a training run at the ground.
It was good to rest the bodies for the approaching last round and finals, he said.