WEST COAST 23 vs 17 WANGANUI
West Coast rugby’s winter of discontent was eased on Saturday with a 23-17 victory over Wanganui.
The win finally got the home team on the Heartland Championship winner’s list, and almost certainly cast the visitors into the vat of 2014 ‘also rans’.
West Coast was desperate for a morale boosting win, while Wanganui needed a victory to have any chance of a top-eight finish and a Lochore Cup
Buller, West Coast’s next opponent continued its unbeaten run with a 19-12 victory over Horowhenua-Kapiti, while in other games Mid-Canterbury beat East Coast 67-12, Poverty Bay downed King Country 35-29, and North Otago beat South Canterbury 22-19.
Persistent rain fell throughout the match, no doubt contributing to a raft of errors from the usually impeccable Tim Priest, who supplied 13 points but twice kicked balls dead when attempting to put penalty kicks out in the corner, and made mistakes a charge down and a handling lapse which led to both Wanganui tries.
The spilled ball could hardly be blamed on Priest, though the pass from halfback Nick Makea was a shocker.
Within minutes of the opening whistle, West Coast’s defensive resolve was evident through thumping midfield tackles from Sean McClure and Andrew Connors and equally staunch defence on the fringes from the forwards.
Wing Regan Stanton scored a fine try and later scurried back to dive on a loose ball and save another, but it was not a day for flashy back play and the forwards relished the chance to keep the ball locked in the tight for most of the match.
No 8 Rowan O’Gorman produced his usual powerful effort, which included having a hand in both tries and possibly saving one by wrenching the ball from the hands of an attacker when the opposition was hot on attack.
All Coast forwards contributed committed efforts but the experiment of moving lock Brad Houston to prop for the second half again de-powered the Coast scrum. Houston was popped like a cork from the first three scrums and, while things got a little better as the game progressed, the scrum was far from stable.
Referee Alastair Payne was also kind to the locals, dishing out six penalties to West Coast in the second half, while Wanganui had to wait until the dying seconds to get another penalty to go with the seven that Payne handed them in the first 40.
Payne started as he finished a fortnight ago, with a flurry of four penalties within five minutes and another, in the 16th minute, was tapped by flanker Alan Monk and unloaded to O’Gorman, who handled twice in the sweeping movement that Stanton finished with a try in the corner.
Priest converted to make it 7-0, but turned from hero to villain within minutes when his clearing kick was charged down by his opposite, Josh Hamilton, and dotted down by second-five Rhema Sagote.
Fullback Ace Malo added the conversion to level the scores and a Malo penalty gave the visitors a 10-7 lead at the break. Two Priest penalties put Coast up 13-10 before the first-five was unable to gather a poor pass, which was snapped up by loose forward Andrew Evans, who scored by the posts.
Malo’s conversion put the visitors up 17-13 but the Coasters were not finished.
Concerted West Coast pressure at the other end was soon rewarded when Connors barged his way over and Priest converted to make it 20-17, and a late Priest penalty sealed the win, 23-17.
West Coast 23 (Regan Stanton, Andrew Connors tries; Tim Priest 2 con, 3 pen)
Wanganui 17 (Josh Hamilton, Andrew Evans tries; Ace Malo 2 con, pen)
by Tui Bromley GreyStar