Wanganui and East Coast gear up for Meads Cup decider


James Mortimer     06 Oct 2011     getty

East Coast have completed a remarkable turnaround this season, finishing winless at the bottom of the Lochore Cup rounds last year, and completed a dramatic shift in form by becoming the first team to beat North Otago – who were the reigning Meads Cup holders – for nearly two years.

The Ruatoria based side travels to Wanganui to try and claim the ultimate prize in the Heartland Championship.

The smallest union in New Zealand could complete a fairy-tale, somewhat fitting in a World cup year, where the game is being celebrated throughout the country.

The roots of the East Coast are embedded in the Ngati Porou iwi (sometimes the club is nicknamed Ngati Porou East Coast) and if they do indeed win, it will be another decorated chapter of the union, formed in 1922, and home of one of the great All Blacks, George Nepia.

What makes their appearance even more remarkable is that they withstood North Otago’s onslaught even when they lost two players to the sinbin at the same time.

North Otago’s ball handling was not becoming of the defending champions, although they did show their mettle when they came back from 15-0 down to score via Faaitu Tuamoheloa and Whiria Meltzer to make it a one point game.

Despite the Old Golds having momentum after halftime, East Coast scored the match winning try with barely quarter of an hour to play, with Sikeli Vorenasu scoring his second to take the game.

Wanganui, despite winning the Meads Cup in 2008 and 2009, were underdogs coming into the match against Mid Canterbury, having played a host of lower ranked teams in Poverty Bay (8th), Horowhenua-Kapiti (12th), West Coast (9th) and Wairarapa Bush (10th).

Mid Canterbury were in form, beating South Canterbury (6th) and Buller (5th), before playing a pseudo final against North Otago.

The Cantabrians also defeated Wanganui earlier in the season at Spriggens Park.

Wanganui needed a big second half after trailing 17-10 at the break, but second half tries to Rusiate Vukula and Denning Tyrell allowed them to reach their sixth Meads Cup final in as many years.

2011 Heartland Championship

Meads Cup semi-final results

East Coast 23 (Sikeli Vorenasu 2, Ngarimu Simpkins tries; Clayton Kiwara con 2 pen) North Otago 17 (Faaitu Tuamoheloa, Whiria Meltzer tries; Ben Patston 2 con pen). HT: 15-14.

Wanganui 32 (Tevita Tafui, Jason Hughes, Rusiate Vukula, Denning Tyrell tries; Mark Davis 3 con 2 pen) Mid Canterbury 22 (Nick Wilson 2, Josh Colgan tries; Stephan van Gruting 2 con, pen). HT: 10-17.

Meads Cup Final:

Wanganui v East Coast
Cooks Garden, Wanganui
Kickoff: 12.35pm