Top matches of 2012 - No.3: East Coast snare Meads Cup

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Members of the East Coast rugby team celebrate after winning the Meads Cup Final between East Coast and Wanganui. Photo / Getty Images.
Members of the East Coast rugby team celebrate after winning the Meads Cup Final between East Coast and Wanganui. Photo / Getty Images.

The stunning, spectacular and the sentimental, nzherald.co.nz lists the top ten sporting matches of 2012.

Number 3: East Coast snare Meads Cup in dramatic fashion
Saturday October 27th, 2012

With fifteen minutes to play in the final of the Meads Cup, the East Coast rugby team was staring defeat square in the eyes.

Their attacking flair had been foiled all afternoon by a dominant Wanganui defence and they were trailing by 24 points. But no-one involved with East Coast rugby lost faith.

Not the 30-strong squad that would later share tears of joy, not the 2000-strong home crowd who performed haka and waiata throughout the whole match, and not East Coast player-coach Ngarimu Simpkins who, despite trailing 27-3, believed that if they could just get one try, they would be OK.

They got that try in the 75th minute, then a second and a third and soon found themselves with an opportunity to tie the game up after earning a penalty within kicking range with mere minutes left on the clock.

But Simpkins epitomised the team's belief by opting for a quick tap, spinning the ball wide and guiding his team to the match winning try - and the greatest comeback in the history of the Meads Cup.

"You had to be there to understand," said Gisborne Herald reporter John Hill.

"It was amazing, the atmosphere was electric as the cry of Nati, East Coast, Nati, East Coast, Nati East, Coast reverberated around the ground the more the players believed they could win."

"Wanganui dominated for 65 minutes and scored 27 points, Coast had 15 minutes.... scored 29."

Simpkins said his team are all local heroes and the match was a win for the whole community.

"People are still talking about it today, the boys are local heroes at the moment and that game will be remembered for the rest of their lives."

It will go down as one of the great grass-roots classics of our time.

What they said:

John Hill (Gisborne Herald)

"Did I really believe they could win? . . . yes. I had reported on this team all year and spent time in their company and knew they were capable of scoring tries. . . . just needed one to get the ball rolling and 15 minutes is a long time in a rugby game.

"The Coast had not yet played up to that point, totally outplayed by a Wanganui side who dominated possession and territory but if there is one team in the country who could come back it was the Coast. . . they play for pride not money.

"Wanganui were also showing signs of tiring in the heat and when TK Moeke scored the Coast's first try a buzz went around the ground.

"As the Wanganui replacements struggled to cope with the heat and the resurgent Sky Blues, the crowd, who were relatively quiet until then got behind the team and became a 16th man.

"You had to be there to understand, it was amazing the atmosphere was electric as the cry of Nati, East Coast, Nati, East Coast, Nati East, Coast reverberated around the ground the more the players believed they could win.

"When you think that the Coast had the chance to tie the game up with a shot at goal but didn't it speaks volumes for their belief in each other."

Ngarimu Simpkins (East Coast player/coach)

"The atmosphere was pretty humbling we had a haka and waiata throughout the whole match and it was quite deafening at times, and when the boys were down the crowd picked them straight back up, and they certainly saw us home in the last 15 minutes.

"Hearing a couple of thousand people singing our song was pretty amazing where we live in New Zealand.

"For the first 60 minutes we were starved of the ball, we always knew with our game plan that if we could get the ball and run it, we had a team full of flair and attacking brilliance.

"We all believed that once we scored that first try we would be ok. It was just true belief. It came down to having faith within our system.

"It wasn't just a win for the 30 man squad, it was a win for the whole community and people are still talking about it in the streets today. The boys are really proud to walk around the community and are local heroes at the moment, and it's something they will never forget for the rest of their lives.

"I've only been coaching two years, so to be able to win the Meads Cup in my second year is an achievement which is right up there."

Top matches of 2012
No.4 - Rabbitohs make improbable comeback
No.5 - Pacquiao knocked out cold
No. 6 - Breakers triumph in overtime
No.7 - Epic Aussie Open final
No. 8 - Blues suffer last minute heartbreak
No.9 - Arsenal make astonishing comeback
No.10 - Black Sticks go down fighting

Over the next week we will count down the best matches of 2012. Which ones stood out? Have your say below.

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