A moment of Andre Taylor brilliance propelled Copthorne Wairarapa-Bush to a thrilling one-point victory over Ngati Porou East Coast.
With less than 10 minutes to play at Trust House Memorial Park, the former Hurricane took a quick tap from a penalty on his own 10m line, took off on a searing run through the midfield, outpacing the tiring East Coast players and offloading for replacement winger Nathan Hunt to score wide out with his first touch of the ball.
The drama wasn’t over, though, and East Coast fullback Renata Roberts-Te Nana twice had the chance to steal the win with penalties, the first from 45m out on a wide angle, with the ball brushing the underside of the crossbar. The second was also from a wide angle but 25m out, but Roberts-Te Nana’s attempt was well wide.
For much of the game, it was the home side doing the chasing, and in many ways, they were masters of their own destiny.
The first chance came after a breathtaking first three minutes when centre Fiula Tameilau made a break on the grandstand side, but his pass to flying winger Aseri Waqa, who had a clear run to the line, was too late and sailed into touch.
A poor Wai-Bush lineout when on attack opened the door for East Coast, and from an ensuing scrum, first-five Te Rangi Fraser ran in for the opening try. The visitors doubled their lead two minutes later through second-five Apirana Pewhairangi, who intercepted a pass from Ben Brooking on halfway for an easy run in under the posts.
Wai-Bush finally got on the scoreboard after 22 minutes when the outstanding winger Nikora Ewe made an angled 30m run to dot down, but poor defence saw the margin restored to 14 points when centre Pamona Samupo strolled through a gaping hole for East Coast’s third five-pointer.
A try to halfback Sam Walton-Sexton, after another strong bust from Ewe, had the home side trailing 21-14 at the break.
The first 10 minutes of the second stanza was all about defence for Wai-Bush, and they would have been happy to only concede a penalty after being camped on their own line.
Ewe was again in the action in the Green and Reds’ first attacking foray of the half, with his inside pass sending hooker Terongo Tekii in for the try after a brilliant midfield run by Tameilau. A Brooking penalty drew the teams level at 24-24.
A harsh yellow card to replacement flanker Marcus Ale gave East Coast the chance from a 5m lineout, and they obliged with a try to hooker Joe Royal from the subsequent forward drive and a 31-24 lead.
Another Brooking penalty narrowed the lead to four points before Taylor’s magic gave the home side the lead, sending the good-sized crowd into raptures.
Wai-Bush co-captain Sam Gammie was rapt to bag the five points after trailing for most of the game, putting the resilience down to a good preseason and 100 per cent commitment to stay in the fight at the end.
“At the start of the game, there were a few nerves from the boys. We’d come through preseason and started those games well, and Ngati Porou really brought it to us and had us on the back foot, so it was good to see us rebounding to get the win,” Gammie said.
“Ngati Porou had a few chances to take it at the end, but I suppose our second-half defence was a big improvement from the first half.”
Gammie believes the win will bring a lot of confidence, and the team fears no one heading into their clash with North Otago in Oamaru on Saturday.
“It’s a big challenge this week, so we’ll be on the front foot heading down and hopefully do a job.”
Wairarapa-Bush 32 [Terongo Tekii, Sam Walton-Sexton, Nikora Ewe, Nathan Hunt tries; Ben Brooking 2 pens, 3 cons]
East Coast 31 [Joe Royal, Te Rangi Fraser, Apirana Pehairangi, Pamona Samupo tries; Renata Roberts-Te Nana pen, 4 cons] Halftime: 14-21.