Heartland pulses beginning to race

Wanganui and Masterton will become the centres of attention as Heartland Championship rugby rivals take one step closer to finding a temporary home for the Meads Cup.

The two towns will host next weekend's semifinals, with Wanganui playing Mid Canterbury and Wairarapa-Bush taking on a dangerous North Otago.

The lower tier Lochore Cup playoffs will feature Poverty Bay against Buller and Thames Valley against King Country.

The round robin series finished yesterday, with both sections of the inaugural Heartland competition producing big wins.

But it was the tighter scorelines which had most significance as Mid Canterbury adopted a conservative gameplan to beat South Canterbury 19-5 in Timaru to snare the fourth spot in the Meads Cup section.

Mid Canterbury played to their strengths to pick up the points and advance, with the decisive moment coming shortly after halftime when lock Jon Dampney strode through some weak defence to score his team's only try.

The opposition will be much tougher next weekend, though, with Wanganui coming off just the sort of tough workout they wanted.

Wanganui saw off Wairarapa-Bush 28-22 at home, a win earned from the toil of their forwards despite their three tries being scored by their vaunted three-quarters.

It was Wairarapa-Bush's first defeat but it may ultimately prove to be an excellent dress rehearsal for the matches which really matter.

North Otago were ominously good against Horowhenua-Kapiti, winning 59-23 in Levin as they ran in nine tries, with Seko Qaraniqio, Kilifi Fangupo and Nathan Oakes all touching down twice.

They finished equal on points with Wairarapa-Bush, but the northerners earned the home semifinal courtesy of their win over North Otago during the pool round.

In the Lochore Cup, Buller nabbed the one position in doubt with a rousing 18-16 win over Thames Valley in Paeroa.

The equation was simple for Buller entering the match. They needed victory to confirm their presence for the playoffs next weekend, otherwise their fate rested in the hands of others.

They accomplished that mission with some style in a very even contest in which little, on the scoreboard or the field, separated the teams.

Thames Valley entered the game as the competition leaders but Buller appeared to want victory more, while the home side were somewhat sluggish compared to some of their more recent performances.

In other games, King Country easily accounted for East Coast 38-12 in Te Kuiti while Poverty Bay over-ran West Coast 57-17, aided by a personal haul of 22 points by second five-eighth Ian Logan.

- NZPA

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 23 Jul 2014 09:23:32 Processing Time: 495ms