A LAST-MINUTE runaway try to Brynn Uriarau lifted Poverty Bay to joint third place on the Heartland Championship rugby table.
It was the tall, long-striding winger’s second try of the game and it gave the Bay a 29-20 win against West Coast at Gisborne’s Rugby Park on Saturday.
The bonus-point victory means the Bay have 11 points, as do Horowhenua Kapiti, who beat Ngati Porou East Coast 37-10 in Otaki.
Former All Black winger Rico Gear was a late withdrawal from the starting 15, due to a knee injury, opening the way for Caleb West to wear the No.11 jersey.
The loss of Gear did not stop the home side from dominating possession and territory for long periods.
But with just over a minute to go, West Coast, trailing 24-20, were camped inside the Bay’s 22 with the crowd screaming, “Tackle, Red. Tackle, tackle”.
No.8 Jake Paringatai, whose cover defence was superb, locks Everard Reid and skipper Murray Hewson, centre TK Moeke and replacement flanker Donny Mill were throwing themselves at West Coast attackers.
With time almost up, Bay second five-eighth Moss Doran hammered the ball carrier, forcing the ball to spill loose.
Uriarau, on the left wing defending, scooped up the ball, shrugged off a defender and raced 75 metres to score, with 52 seconds left on the clock.
“That could turn out to be a season-defining win,” Bay manager George Ormond said. “You have to win your home games and, if possible, pick up a bonus point.”
Bay coach Mutu Ngarimu said it wasn’t pretty but they would take the five points.
“The weather played into West Coast’s hands and even though we dominated possession, they put us under pressure at times and capitalised on our mistakes.”
It was all Poverty Bay in the first 20 minutes, with Uriarau, Moeke, Hewson and former New Zealand Maori Paringatai particularly prominent.
Despite the Bay’s wealth of possession, West Coast were ahead 6-3.
“We spent a lot of time inside their 22 with no reward other than a Moss Doran penalty, which was disappointing,” Ngarimu said.
Doran missed a kickable penalty in the 30th minute and the Bay were made to pay. West Coast stretched their lead through a try to second five-eighth Andrew Connors, converted by their best player, No.10 Tim Priest, for a 13-3 lead at halftime.
“We talked about pride, passion and patience at the break,” Ngarimu said.
“We’d got ourselves into good positions to score tries in the first 40 but lacked patience.”
The pep talk worked. In the 44th minute, the Bay closed the gap when Uriarau scored following a solid Bay scrum five metres in from the right wing and 10 metres from the tryline.
Paringatai passed to halfback Sam Parkes, who moved the ball quickly to first five Clayton Kiwara, who timed his pass to perfection for Uriarau to dot down close to the posts. Kiwara converted and it was 13-10 to West Coast. Game on.
In the 55th minute, Hewson gave Poverty Bay the lead for the first time in the game after the Bay turned down a gift three points to go to the lineout.
It wasn’t the Bay’s best lineout of the day but Mill tidied up the loose ball before passing to his skipper to burrow his way over the line. Kiwara extended the lead with the conversion.
West Coast refused to buckle and they showed they came to win when they turned down four successive kickable penalites to go for the touchline and a possible try.
They failed to make those decisions count but eventually had their reward when No.8 Rowan O’Gorman was driven over with 14 minutes remaining. Priest’s conversion put his side in front, 20-17.
Back came the Bay. Following good work by the forwards as they worked the ball close to the posts, they were awarded a penalty that would have tied the scores.
With four minutes to play and the crowd shouting “take the points”, Moeke tapped the ball and took three defenders over the line with him. Kiwara added the conversion.
“Surely that’s it,” one Bay supporter said. “They won’t let it go now.”
They didn’t, thanks to Uriarau’s anticipation, speed and strength.
POVERTY BAY 29 (Brynn Uriarau 2, Murray Hewson, TK Moeke tries; Moss Doran penalty, Clayton Kiwara 3 con).
WEST COAST 20 (Andrew Connors, Rowan O’Gorman tries; Tim Priest 2 con, 2 pen).
HT: 13-3 (West Coast).