Rugby: East Coast snare Meads Cup in dramatic fashion

By John Hill of the Gisborne Herald

Mike King of East Coast. Photo / Getty Images.
Mike King of East Coast. Photo / Getty Images.

East Coast 29
Wanganui 27

East Coast avenged last year's loss to Wanganui in the Meads Cup final when they came from 23-7 down to beat the Butcher Boys 29-27 in a sensational final at Whakarua Park, Ruatoria, today.

The reigning champions dominated the first 40 minutes and deservedly led 20-3. They looked to have the game sewn up when fullback Asalemo Malo scored a try, converted by left winger Nick Harding, 13 minutes into the second half.

But with 15 minutes remaining the Coast, who beat Wanganui in round five on the same ground and finished top of the round-robin format, scored 26 unanswered points in front of a crowd of 2000 screaming fans.

Tries to former Wanganui wing TK Moeke, prop Ziggy Fisihoi, replacement wing Mike King and fullback Verdon Bartlett, along with three conversions to first five-eighths John Semple, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

"We just couldn't get our hands on the pill in the first 40, Wanganui were all over us,'' East Coast player-coach Ngarimu Simpkins said. ``But we knew if we hung in and could get some possession we had the backs to finish.''

Wanganui opened the scoring with a penalty to Harding after seven minutes and for the next 33 minutes their forwards controlled possession and territory.

Areta Lama, making his first starting appearance of the season in the No 10 jersey, and midfield backs Rhema Sagote and Saul Chase were causing the Coast all sorts of problems with their hard and straight running.

Tries to lock Nic Cranston and Sagote, coupled with a Harding penalty and conversion, gave Wanganui a 17-point lead at the break.

They had the better of the first 25 minutes after the restart but, once Moeke scored the Coast's first try, the wheels began to fall off Wanganui.

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

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