Rugby: Buller edge West Coast in local derby

By Norman Crawshaw

Buller 26
West Coast 18

In a typically intense local derby which could have gone either way, Buller retained the Rundle Cup and took four Heartland points with a 26-18 victory over West Coast - but their failure to gain a bonus point left their Meads Cup hopes hanging by a thread.

Both sides scored two tries but West Coast had no one to match the kicking ability of Buller's Marty Banks who made the difference with four penalties and two conversions.

The sides were evenly matched in the forwards with both sides taking turns to apply pressure on the opposition goal line and both sides defending equally strongly. In the backs Buller had more flair and slightly better defence with Pene Nabainavalu outstanding on the tackle.

The early stages of the match belonged to West Coast but it was Buller who took the points through two Banks penalties in the sixth and eighth minutes. Phil Thompson closed the gap with a shot from straight in front but Buller widened the gap with a length of the field try to William Saukuru after a weaving run from Isei Lewaqi turned the Coast defence inside out.

The 10-point buffer meant West Coast were constantly struggling to catch up and when Banks added two more penalties early in the second half to take Buller out to 19-6, it looked all over for West Coast.

However, West Coast rallied and threw everything at the home side and, after ten minutes camping on the Buller line only to meet with resolute defence, were rewarded with a try by Rowan O'Gorman. Sean McClure converted and suddenly the visitors were within a converted try of an upset victory.

It was now Buller's turn to apply pressure and it was James Foster who powered through the West Coast defence in an almost copycat manner after a series of Buller drives at the visitors' line.

With only a few minutes remaining Buller seemed safe at 26-13 and so it proved, although the last word went to West Coast with a try to centre Luke Hughes with a few minutes to go. However, it was too little too late and Buller hung on for a 26-18 victory.

The forward battle was an even one with every forward exhausted after a hard physical 80-minute battle. James Foster and Isei Lewaki stood in a totally committed Buller pack while Brad Houston and Rowan O'Gorman were the best of the visiting pack.

In the backs Marty Banks and William Saukuru were outstanding for Buller. The West Coast backs were less inventive on attack although solid on defence with Luke Hughes the pick of them.

Buller 26 (Saukuru, Foster tries; Banks 4 pens, 2 cons)

West Coast 18 (O'Gorman, Hughes tries; Thompson 2 pens, McClure con)

HT: 13-6

- APNZ

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