East Coast comeback overwhelms Whanganui

Getty Images     28 Oct 2012     Getty Images

Two tries in the last seven minutes resulted in the win which was received with great scenes of celebration in the East Coast township of Ruatoria.

Whanganui wing and goal-kicker Nick Harding was ruled to have deliberately knocked a pass down with 11 minutes of the game remaining and his side in front 27-17.

And East Coast who had been 3-20 down at halftime scored three tries in the final 15 minutes.

The first was superbly inspired by wing Whaimotu Craft Chemis and scored by prop Ziggy Fisiihoi, the second from a tap penalty which resulted in replacement wing Mike King crossing, and then two minutes from the end it was fullback Verdon Bartlett who got across in the corner from yet another tap penalty.

East Coast, hit hard in the first half, had their task made more difficult two minutes into the second spell when halfback Charlie Harrison was sin-binned for hands in a ruck. While the penalty goal attempted rebounded back into play from a goalpost, Whanganui set up the play and it was destructive second five-eighths Rhema Sagote who created a gap.

Flanker and captain Peter Rowe was quick in support but adjudged to have been held up as he attempted to ground the ball. From the resulting scrum, a simple blindside move with the pass from No.8 Darren Munro to fullback Asalemo Malo saw the latter score. The conversion by wing Nick Harding took Whanganui out to a 27-3 lead.

They lost centre Saul Chase to the sin-bin after he was ruled to have made a late tackle without using his arms, but East Coast squandered their chance by No.8 replacement Mutu Ngariumu, who provided vital momentum in the remainder of the game, taking a tap penalty only to lose the ball.

East Coast did get their first try 55 minutes into the game when finally a tap penalty produced space on the outside and right wing Tau Moeke was able to take the ball at speed, step inside a defender and then speed to the line to pull the score back to 10-27.

With their spirits up, and changes made by both teams to freshen their sides in the warm conditions, it was the East Coast team who first regained their momentum and it was Craft Chemis who provided a superb spark with a crab-like corkscrewing run that took out at least eight defenders before a link pass to Fisiihoi who set the ground alight with his try to reduce the margin to 10 points.

During a first half in which Whanganui were in total control, a turnover, courtesy of a Jon Smyth charge down of an attempted tactical kick by second five-eighths Rua Tipoki, created the first try. As the ball landed it bounced perfectly for Smyth's fellow lock Nick Cranston to secure the ball and open out his long legs on a thrilling 50m run to the goal-line to score.

Harding, who had landed a sixth minute penalty goal, added a fine conversion from wide out to give Wanganui a handy 10-0 lead.

East Coast first five-eighths John Semple landed his side's first points with his first attempt at goal in the 20th minute. However, the margin was extended again when Wanganui first five-eighths Areta Lama landed a dropped goal from 35m in the 24th minute.

Four minutes from the break, another break by second five-eighths Rhema Sagote carried play just short of the East Coast line. Wanganui moved the ball through three pick and goes before the ball was released.

Lama ran onto the ball at speed, and on the angle to turn the ball to Sagote on the reverse and he was untroubled to get the ball over the goal-line for the try.


HT: 3-20 East Coast 29 (Tau Moeke, Ziggy Fisiihoi, Mike King, Verdon Bartlett try; John Semple 3 con, pen) Whanganui 27 (Nick Cranston, Rhema Sagote, Asalemo Malo tries; Nick Harding 3 con, pen; Areta Lama dropped goal). HT: 3-20