Rugby: Buller win despite speed wobbles

By Norman Cranshaw of the Westport News

Buller 31
King Country 19

In a game both sides were desperate to win, Buller wound up convincing winners but not without a a further attack of the second-half staggers which has bedevilled their season so far.

In this case, a 24-point lead was halved as King Country came back into a game which looked well and truly lost and the Buller defence started to crack wide out.

Buller began the match at a pace which was just too torrid for King Country and had seven points on the board before King Country touched the ball, apart from knocking-on the Buller kick off.

A series of drives took Buller up to the visitors' line where prop Philip Beveridge proved unstoppable from close range after only three minutes.

Within five minutes, Buller's lead was doubled when another series of drives took Buller up to the King Country line and Banks slipped through some weak defence to score under the posts.

Buller dominated the rest of the half but their only reward was a Banks penalty. Even so, their 17-point halftime cushion was well deserved as the Buller forwards dominated every facet of play except the lineout.

In the latter stages of the half, King Country came back into the game with some determined counter-attacking running from the backs but the visitors were left ruing a woeful kicking game.

Kicks at goal were well astray, penalties failed to find touch and tactical kicks went straight to Buller players who were able to counter-attack or slam the ball back, leaving King Country behind where they had started.

The second half began in similar fashion to the first. Play was meandering around in midfield when Buller midfielder Pene Nabainavalu swooped on a loose ball and raced 60m through the startled defence to score by the posts.

However, with Buller holding a 24-point lead, the wobbles set in.

With the ball bobbling around aimlessly in midfield, it landed in the arms of King County wing Simelai Koniferedi and he raced away to score almost unchallenged.

Three minutes later, it was Dean Church who scored in the opposite corner after Buller's defence from a set piece was lacking and suddenly it was 24-12 and King Country began to feel a surge of confidence.

As Buller began to wonder if history was going to repeat itself, and a halftime lead was going to be squandered, King Country poured onto the attack.

However, William Saukuru made the game safe for Buller as he jinked through the visitors' defence then accelerated away to score.

King Country had the last say with a try to halfback Ben Draper after a penalty initially awarded to Buller was reversed but it was too little too late and Buller were able to claim a bonus-point victory which lifts them into the top echelon of the Heartland competition.

James Foster had a strong game in the forwards for Buller while William Saukuru and Marty Banks, who alternated the roles of fullback and first five-eighths were the best of an enterprising backline.

Gene Waller was the best of a King Country forward pack which spent much of the game on the back foot. The backs had a wretched day with the boot.

Buller were perhaps fortunate that King Country wing Koniferedi saw so little of the ball as he looked very dangerous with the few chances he was given.

Buller 31 (Philip Beveridge. William Saukuru, Penijamini Nabainivalu, Marty Banks tries; Banks 4 cons, pen) King Country 19 (Simelai Koniferedi, Ben Draper, Dean Church tries; Sean Cressy 2 cons). HT: 17-0.

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