A final 12-point flourish has helped steer the Tasman Griffins to a conclusive 32-15 Seddon Shield rugby win over West Coast in Murchison.
Hooker Pelefoti Siaki was the Griffins’ deserving late beneficiary, the feisty rake scoring twice within the space of two minutes to stretch their lead to 17 points with just five minutes remaining in Saturday’s season-opener.
It hadn’t always been that clear-cut for the Seddon Shield holders, particularly after they had given West Coast a 12-point headstart following first half tries to winger Todd Struthers and to big centre Regan Stanton after a breakdown in the Griffins’ backline.
But trailing 12-0 after 28 minutes, the Griffins finally responded through a try to hard-working No 8 Jacobus De Kock eight minutes before halftime to cut West Coast’s lead to 12-7 at the break.
When De Kock charged across once again from a charged down kick virtually from the restart, the Griffins were finally back on even terms at 12-12.
A try to right winger Kim Bateman, ahead of penalty successes to West Coast’s Nik Cumming and the Griffins’ Eli Kneepkens, eventually had the Griffins in front at 20-15. And with the pressure mounting, Siaki’s double late strike was enough to push them comfortably clear in the sixth defence of their current tenure.
It was a typical season-opening performance in many respects. Handling errors and miscommunication were predictable by-products of the team’s limited preparation, a factor not lost on head coach Dan Perrin.
“Yeah, there was a bit of rust out there,” Perrin said.
“It’s early days and to be expected, but I thought the intensity got better as we gelled a little bit throughout the game. So I was pretty happy with the intensity and speed and it probably showed in those last 10 minutes.”
While the Griffins struggled to find the right balance between endeavour and execution, there was enough genuine attacking intent to indicate more positive returns ahead.
“There was plenty of endeavour on attack … it was just mistakes. I think we counted probably 19 in that first half with unforced errors and penalties, so time in the saddle together and those numbers are going to come down and we can build a bit more pressure.”
His brace of tries aside, Siaki was among the Griffins’ leading performers, joining aggressive flanker Dan Hytongue and De Kock as their most consistent ball carriers.
The Griffins’ outscrummed West Coast in one clear area of dominance but while lock Sam Liebezeit showed plenty of authority at lineout time, the West Coast’s lineout also proved effective.
The Griffins’ backs all looked full of running but lacked the subtleties that extended time together will produce. Fletcher Matthews ran strongly on the wing and Tomas Aoake added plenty of attacking punch as a second half substitute.
Substitute forward Willis Scott also provided plenty of impact off the bench as the Griffins’ forwards began to generate more momentum during the second half. And as the passes and phases began to mount up, it was inevitable that the previously urgent West Coast defence would finally crack.
Overall, it was a satisfying first hit-out for Perrin.
“Considering the time together, there were some really good individual performances. The set piece I was really happy with and once again, it’s about building those combinations.
“There wasn’t too much indecision, if they ran, they ran hard. I think we got caught a little bit at the breakdown early, they pressured us there, but they adapted well and I’m pretty happy with the end result.”
The Griffins head back to Murchison next Saturday to take on Buller in their second defence of the season. Buller lost 29-22 to the Tasman Red Devils in Saturday’s early game.
AT A GLANCE
Tasman Griffins (Nelson Bays) 32 (Jacobus De Kock 2, Pelefoti Siaki 2, Kim Bateman tries, Eli Kneepkens 2 con, pen)
West Coast 15 (Todd Struthers, Regan Stanton tries, Nik Cumming con, pen)