South Canterbury 28
Buller's trophy cabinet is full after a mighty defensive effort saw the home team add the Lochore Cup to the Centennial Trophy, the Strachan Cup and the Rundle Cup with a pulsating victory over a South Canterbury side which threw everything at the home side.
The fantastic crowd support was a factor in helping Buller sweep to some magnificent tries and also to repel South Canterbury, especially in the last ten minutes when South Canterbury were camped on the Buller line trying desperately to overcome their deficit.
Buller began well with a Marty Banks penalty after four minutes but were unable to add to their lead and after twenty minutes came what might have been the decisive moment in the match. Buller breached the South Canterbury mid-field and Trael Joass looked certain to score only to be called back for a forward pass.
Buller were caught napping from the ensuing scrum as the visitors got the ball wide for Liam Edwards to race around the defence and score under the posts. He converted his own try easily. However, worse was to come for Buller. Straight from the kick off Edwards was in again, this time after taking a wide kick on the full.
He again converted and within the space of two minutes, instead of the score being 10-0 to Buller it was 14-3 to South Canterbury. Banks and Edwards swapped penalties and with half time looming South Canterbury held a useful 20-12 lead.
However, with half time on the clock the visitors made a fatal mistake. Buller was awarded a penalty near the South Canterbury posts and the visitors turned their backs expecting Buller to take the easy three points. However, Buller took a quick tap and while the South Canterbury defenders looked in amazement Andrew Norton-Taylor was in under the posts. Banks' conversion meant that Buller were right back in the match at 20-19.
With the Buller coaches urging patience and adherence to the game plan at half time, Buller came out firing. Within two minutes Pene Nabainavalu wrong footed the defence and sliced through to score under the posts and after fifteen minutes hooker Iliasa Namua completed a fine movement after some superb counter-attacking and Buller had a 31-20 lead.
The last ten minutes were desperate time for Buller. South Canterbury threw everything possible at the line but the defence was rock solid. The only gap came when Number 8 Kali Latu crossed in the corner to narrow the lead to 31-28.
South Canterbury attacked ferociously as time ticked away but met with totally resolute defence and finally it was Buller who were triumphant.
In the Buller pack Luke Brownlee and Isei Lewaqai were outstanding in a pack in which everyone did what was expected and more while Trael Joass had an excellent game on both attack and defence.
For South Canterbury Number 8 Kali Latu was the pick of the forwards while halfback Sekope Maea gave his backs excellent service.
Buller chairman Erik Westergaard described the match as a fantastic spectacle and a great boost to the community which had got right behind the Buller team while coach Craig Scanlon described it as great spectacle with the win founded on great defence.
South Canterbury were gracious in defeat with Rugby Manager Cam Kilgour paying tribute to the magnificent Buller defence and praising what he called the awesome support which had lifted the home team.
Buller 31 (Norton-Taylor, Nabainavalu, Namua tries; Banks 2 cons, 4 pens) South Canterbury 28 (Edwards 2, Latu tries; 2 cons, 3 pens). HT: 19-20.
- APNZBy Norman Crawshaw of Westport News