A last-minute dropped goal has indelibly etched Tim Priest’s name into West Coast rugby folklore after he kicked them to a shock 14-12 Seddon Shield win over Nelson Bays on Saturday.
With time almost up and Car Company Nelson Bays holding tenuously to a 12-11 lead, the diminutive No 10 calmly slotted the match-winning kick from about 30 metres to send his team-mates into predictable raptures on a rain-soaked Trafalgar Park.
The final whistle followed just moments later and the real celebrations began as stunned Nelson Bays players disbelievingly acknowledged their fate.
For Christchurch club player and former Canterbury B representative Priest, it brought the match to a fitting conclusion after West Coast had controlled so many crucial areas of the game.
“What a beauty,” beamed Priest in acknowledgement of his match-winning kick shortly after the final whistle.
“We knew if we got down [in Nelson Bays’ territory] and had a bit of patience, we’d either get a penalty or something like that. That second half we had a bit of a breeze behind us so it was just a matter of trying to stay down there. It came [down] to the last minute but we got there.”
After a competitive 33-21 loss to Mid Canterbury the previous week, Priest said the players had taken plenty of belief into Saturday’s challenge.
“We had a good game against Mid-Canterbury last week and we took some pride from that and we knew we could have it up front.
“So it was a matter of not playing anything in our half, getting down there and letting our forwards do the work. You know, we exposed them in a couple of places and we’ll keep working on that. We’ll take this shield home and we’ll thrive off that.”
A big and physical West Coast forward pack edged Nelson Bays in key areas, notably in the lineouts where Nelson Bays constantly struggled to secure their own ball.
By contrast, it was from a clean lineout win by impressive lock Josh Manning in the 19th minute that West Coast sparked the game’s only try, big Blaketown centre Phil Thompson busting through Nelson Bays’ defence to help give his brother and fullback Rob Thompson a clear run into the corner.
The remaining points came from kicks as Nelson Bays’ centre Marty Banks landed three first- half penalties to give the home team a 9-8 lead at the break. Phil Thompson landed a crucial 51m penalty directly after the restart to restore West Coast’s lead at 11-9 before David Havili replied from close range to again put Nelson Bays back in front at 12-11. But Priest’s match-winning field goal was the only other scoring as West Coast celebrated a special win.
While Priest ultimately struck the decisive blow, arguably West Coast’s most influential figure was their flanker and former Nelson Bays player Rowan O’Gorman who was constantly involved in the action. He got excellent support from his No 8, Suamalie Tuiletufuga, and prop Hiroshi Tea as West Coast’s most damaging runners, while Phil Thompson impressed among the backs.
West Coast co-coach Sean Cuttance expressed some obvious emotions after his team’s deserved win.
“The boys are ectstatic . . . they’ve been working hard and they thoroughly deserve it,” Cuttance said.
“[Nelson Bays] really struggled with their lineout . . . our lineout was amazing. We’ve been working hard on our lineout D[efence] and also our own ball, of course.
“Everyone’s put a massive effort in and it’s going to be good to take that shield home.”
However, despite strong performances by big ball-carrying No 8 Sililo Savea, lock Jarrod Aberhart and hooker Dan Perrin, Nelson Bays coach Mike Fraser was forced to concede West Coast’s overall dominance.
“I think they had the upper hand up front, didn’t they, really,” Fraser said.
“We weren’t able to get ball and I suppose the conditions were wet enough just to slow us down out wide too. No, we got fairly beaten today.
“We couldn’t get that go-forward up front. We struggled in the set phase, we struggled at the breakdown as well and we didn’t get enough quality ball to threaten them.
“They had a pretty good forward pack out there . . . but no excuses, we weren’t good enough on the day.”
– © Fairfax NZ News
WAYNE MARTIN 19/08/2013