Hammers go down against neighbours
Mid Canterbury suffered their second loss on the trot in rugby’s Heartland Championship on Saturday, going down 31-16 to South Canterbury in Ashburton.
South Canterbury retained the Hanan Shield with the win and are now tied for second spot on the ladder after three rounds, while Mid Canterbury have only their win over Poverty Bay in round one to their name and could be in danger of missing out on the top six and a chance to play for the Meads Cup.
Mid Canterbury co coach Craig Dunlea said his side never really got going.
‘‘There were little things that let us down and then the game got away from us a bit.
‘‘I was happy with the way we came back at the end but it was a bit late.’’
Mid Canterbury’s best was Eric Duff, while young No.8 Sam Finau made some strong runs in the first half. Substitute Seta Koroitamana also had an impact off the bench.
The game meandered between the 22s for the first 30 minutes, until No.8 Brad Hemopo drove over from close range for the visitors, and open side Nick Strachan was next to score when South Canterbury opted for a quick tap close to the line.
Halfback Willie Wright converted both for 14-0 halftime lead.
Early in the second half Mid Canterbury opted to kick two penalties to close to eight points, but South Canterbury then went further ahead after a strong run from Marac Beckham, leaving wing Kalavini Leatigaga to score his easiest try of the season, diving over from two metres out.
With 60 minutes gone Vatiliai Tora scored the bonus point try, with a tremendous solo effort, when he used his strength to brush defenders off and then beat the fullback to score.
Duff then got one back for the home side, the lock standing out wide and running in untouched as the South Canterbury defence was caught out, and at 24-11 the
‘‘The game got away from us.’’
Craig Dunlea, co-coach
hosts had a sniff.
Hemopo however extended the lead with his second try after a good bust.
Mid Canterbury had the final say when wing Maleli Sau sprinted in, to finish off a move that started in their own half, but it was too little, too late.
Mid Canterbury now head to Masterton to take on Wairarapa Bush, another side that only has one win to its name after three rounds. They then head home again to play Wanganui.
Jared Percival puts in a big fend during Mid Canterbury’s loss to South Canterbury in round three of rugby’s Heartland Championship.