While a quartet of Horowhenua-Kāpiti players were rejoicing after pushing an international side hard at Eden Park the weekend, the rest of the team were left licking their wounds at home after being beaten 27-21 by West Coast at Levin Domain.

Horowhenua-Kāpiti was missing forwards Scott Cameron and Aaron Lahmert, along with backs Willie Paia'aua and Timoci Seruwalu, who were all seconded to the NZ Heartland XV that gave Manu Samoa a solid pre-World Cup gallop, losing 36-19.

Paia'aua scored a try against Manu Samoa. But along with Wanganui, Horowhenua Kāpiti had made the largest contribution to the NZ Heartland side, and it possibly told against West Coast.

In comparison, West Coast fared slightly better as they sent up just two players - hooker and captain Troy Tauwhare and their second-five Sione Holani.

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Despite those absences, Horowhenua-Kāpiti was installed as favourite at the TAB to win the match on home soil, so the result could be seen as an upset, as West Coast failed to make the top eight of the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship last season.

In brilliant sunshine, after soaking up early pressure, the home side scored first when halfback Kane Tamou trotted over near the posts, and first five-eight Cody Hemi making no mistake with the conversion.

Horowhenua-Kapiti prop David McErlean gors on the charge against West Coast at Levin Domain at the weekend.
Horowhenua-Kapiti prop David McErlean gors on the charge against West Coast at Levin Domain at the weekend.

West Coast levelled the scores at seven-all soon after when openside flanker Josh Tomlinson sailed through the middle, and fullback Todd Struthers added the extras.

When Horowhenua-Kāpiti flanker Nathan Kendrick showed good pace to score under the posts, the home side where in a good position to kick-on at halftime, leading 14-7.

Horowhenua-Kāpiti ran into the changing sheds at halftime, while West Coast stayed in a huddle on the field.

Scoring first after halftime is often crucial and West Coast dealt that blow with a try after the break, to lock Sam Liebezeit, that levelled the scores, and when Struthers kicked a penalty it put the visitors in front for the first time in the game.

West Coast first-five Jesse Pitman-Joass scored a try midway through the half, and when he popped over a crucial drop goal a few phases later, it forced Horowhenua-Kāpiti into catch-up rugby.

When Horowhenua-Kāpiti fullback Himiona Henare scored out wide it gave his side hope, but repeated offending at the breakdown proved costly as the penalty count against them began to rise.

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Just as they were beginning to gain momentum and field position, they had to turn around and start again from their own half.

But there were positives. Shae Gray had a good game in midfield for Horowhenua-Kāpiti, while flanker Logan Broughton ran hard and McErlean and number eight Nardus Erasmus were industrious all day.

HK v West Coast Levin Domain Sat August 30 2019. Photo/Darryl Butler
HK v West Coast Levin Domain Sat August 30 2019. Photo/Darryl Butler

Speedy winger Junior Laoifi looked dangerous at times, but didn't see enough ball in space to hurt West Coast, a credit to their stoic defence.

Meanwhile in other Heartland matches, Stadium North Otago beat Wairarapa Bush 25-11 in a match that was curtain raiser to the Ranfurly Shield defence for Otago against Manawatu at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Both teams were also unbeaten heading into the match, which left North Otago and West Coast as the only two unbeaten team after two rounds.

King Country beat Buller 34-12 win, a match that was also played on Friday night under lights.

East Coast almost scored their first win since 2013, losing narrowly to Mid Canterbury 22-15 in Ruatoria.

It gave East Coast a bonus point, though. They were boosted by former All Black and current Celebrity Treasure Island contestant Zac Guildford, who has now joined that side for the season.

South Canterbury came away with a 40-29 win against Poverty Bay in Gisborne after leading 22-8 at halftime, although Poverty Bay did manage a four-try bonus point.

Wanganui went down 36-30 to Thames Valley at Whanganui, blowing an early 18-3 lead.

Meanwhile, NZ Heartland XV coach Mark Rutene said it was a great opportunity for rural rugby players to play on the big stage, and one they wouldn't forget.

"They loved it," he said.

Manu Samoa had benefited from more time spent together to prepare, he said.


SCOREBOARD: West Coast 27 (Josh Tomlinson, Sam Lebezeit, Jesse Pitman-Joass tries; Todd Struthers pen, 3 con, Pitman-Joass drop goal) bt HOROWHENUA-KĀPITI 21 (Kane Tamou, Nathan Kendrick, Himiona Henare tries; Cody Hemi 3 con). HT: 14-7.