RUGBY by Ben O’Brien-Leaf
Published: September 24, 2019 11:24AM
NGATI Porou East Coast are taking the positives from their Heartland Championship 67-24 loss to Wanganui at Cooks Gardens on Saturday.
The hosts scored 11 tries but the Coast produced three of the best in a scoreline both sides felt did not reflect the competitiveness of the game.
The 1500-plus fans were treated to an entertaining spectacle, with the Sky Blues playing their part.
NPEC’s try-scorers were left-wing Epeli Lotawa, Most Valuable Player and halfback Sam Parkes and hooker Perrin Manuel.
Parkes kicked a penalty and three conversions.
The Butcher Boys’ flying left-wing Tyler Rogers-Holden crossed for four tries and reserve loosehead prop Raymond Salu scored two tries as Wanganui moved from ninth into seventh place on the table.
Despite their defiant showing, the Coast remain 12th and bottom of the table with one bonus point.
“It was a good game up to the 80th minute,” said NPEC head coach Wayne Ensor.
“Hoani Te Moana (blindside flanker) had a high work rate and was outstanding in defence.
“He, Mitch Crosswell (openside flanker), captain Hone Haerewa (No.8) and Laman Davies (loosehead prop) carried the ball well against a bigger forward pack.”
Ensor’s opposite Jason Caskey said both sides looked to play running rugby.
“Five or six times in their own 22, the Coast boys looked to run it out — the ultimate risk and reward.”
Wanganui captain and blindside flanker Campbell Hart said the Coast’s willingness to run the ball and spread it wide put their defence under pressure in the first half.
“You’ve got to play with structure to beat them.”
Haerewa said the score didn’t reflect the game.
“We were in the contest and good things came out of the loss. For example, we won our own lineout ball, as well as some of theirs.
“That’s a positive we’ll use for the duration of the championship.”
On a perfect 21-degree day at the Gardens, Otago referee Stuart Curran contributed to high-quality running rugby.
Three minutes in, the hosts fed a scrum and from a set move, right-wing Vereniki Tikoisolomone opened the scoring with a try under the crossbar, which first five-eighth Dane Whale converted.
Rogers-Holden scored his first in the eighth minute after eight phases of play to make it 12-0.
From the restart, Lotawa went over for the first of the Coast’s tries.
First-five Chris Richardson’s floating chip kick was tapped down to centre Zac Guildford, who scooped up the ball and fed Parkes, who passed it to Lotawa to score.
Parkes converted, then added a penalty in the 15th minute to close the deficit to 12-10.
Wanganui struck back with Rogers-Holden tries in the 25th and 33rd minutes (22-10).
The Coast’s second try followed.
Fullback Verdon Bartlett seized on an opportunity to turn defence into attack from a scrappy Wanganui pass. He ran hard and picked up Parkes on the fly with a superb pass. Parkes scored near the posts and converted his own try to close it to 22-17.
However, Wanganui No.8 Ezra Meleisia had the last say before halftime with a try converted by Whale for a 29-17 advantage.
Wanganui dominated from the second-half outset, running in five tries before the Coast responded with their third . . . and it was a gem.
From a scrum in Wanganui’s 22, Parkes went right to right-wing Benny Haerewa, who promptly threw a 20m pass back for Bartlett on the run. The ball went through multiple sets of hands, followed by a couple of pick-and-goes, and Manuel was on hand to dive across.
Rogers-Holden scored his fourth and the game’s last try in the 75th.
For the Coast, giant lock Adaam Ross — a titan at lineout time — and his second-row partner Scott Lasenby were strong throughout the game.
Manahi Brooking (lock) and Moana Mato (second five) also did well as late additions to the Coast squad.
It was Wanganui’s 26th win over the Coast in 29 meetings since the National Provincial Championship began in 1976.
The Coast are at home for Week 6 of the competition.
They play West Coast for the Arthur Wickes Memorial Trophy — first presented in 1996, and held by West Coast since a 15-11 win at Greymouth in 2013 — at Enterprise Cars Whakarua Park in Ruatoria this Saturday.
2019 Heartland Championship – Round 5
Wanganui v East Coast – 21/09/19
6️⃣7️⃣ Wanganui (Tyler Rogers-Holden 4, Vereniki Tikoisolomone 2, Raymond Salu 2, Ezra Meleisea, Jamie Hughes, Samu Kubunavanua tries; Dane Whale 3 con, Nick Harding 3 con)
2️⃣4️⃣ East Coast (Epeli Lotawa, Sam Parkes, Perrin Manuel tries; Parkes pen, 3 con). HT: 29-17.