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Coast earn respect

ON THE BURST: Ngati Porou East Coast centre Zac Guildford looks to make a break in the game against Mid-Canterbury at Ruatoria on Saturday. Picture by Doone Harrison

In rugby, respect is hard-earned.

Ngati Porou East Coast earned more of it with a gutsy effort against Mid-Canterbury at Enterprise Cars Whakarua Park on Saturday.

The Sky Blues lost 22-15 to the Hammers, but only Mid-Canterbury captain No.8 Jon Dampney said aloud what many might have thought: “A win isn’t far away for them — I’m just glad it wasn’t against us.”

The Dale Palmer-coached Hammers led the Coast 10-0 at halftime with a try in the 32nd minute to Dampney in his 125th outing.

First five-eighth Corey McKay converted the try and a McKay penalty goal in the 40th minute meant that the hosts would have to score twice.

Coast fullback Zane King opened the second-half scoring with a penalty goal in the 45th minute to make it 10-3.

In the 52nd minute came a magic moment: centre Zac Guildford’s first try at home for the Coast in the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship. The Hammers, though, still held the upper hand 10-8.

This match had the biggest crowd for a game on the Coast since the 2012 Meads Cup final. From Uawa to Cape Runaway, the excitement generated by the All Blacks, their trip and haka atop Mt Hikurangi, the opening of the new NPEC office complex and, above all else, real optimism about the Hone Haerewa-led Coast’s prospects this season drew 1500-plus to the ground.

In the 58th minute, Hammers fullback Matt McAtamney scored for 15-8 and in the 74th minute, reserve right wing Manasa Bari’s five-pointer — with McKay’s conversion — gave Mid-Canterbury a 22-10 advantage.

Where a different team might then have let the game fizzle out, that’s not how the Coast ride this season.

READY AND WILLING: East Coast prop Perrin Manuel prepares to take on the Mid-Canterbury defensive line at Whakarua Park on Saturday. Picture by Doone Harrison

Their left wing, Epeli Lotawa, scored in the 80th minute to get the Sky Blues a bonus point for being within seven points of the opposition, whereas the Coast last year finished without a competition point.

Coast captain and blindside flanker Hone Haerewa said both teams went at it for the full 80 minutes.

“I was really proud of our boys’ match-effort,” he said.

“Also, our bench came on and made the impact needed to finish the game off. We didn’t get the result we wanted but we’re very happy with the effort.”

Dampney complimented Manawatu referee Tim Griffiths on his control and for allowing a contest at the breakdown.

The Coast, with a sou’westerly at their backs in the first half, played to the corners and their tactical kicking was excellent.

The hosts held the visitors scoreless for more than half an hour.

At set piece, the home team more than held their own and some of the tackling was ferocious.

Mid-Canterbury head coach Dale Palmer said: “We held them out during that period, too, but missed opportunities in a really good tussle.

“For a team who have limited training time together, they were very physical and put a lot of pressure on us — I take my hat off to the Coast.”

    • 2019 Heartland Championship – Round 2
      East Coast vs Mid Canterbury
      30/08/19 @ Whakarua Park, Ruatoria

East Coast 15 (Zac Guildford, Epeli Lotawa tries; Zane King con, pen)
Mid Canterbury 22 (Jon Dampney, Matt McAtamney, Manasa Bari tries; Corey McKay 2 con, pen). HT: 0-10