Percival seals stunning Hammers win
A Jared Percival penalty on full time sealed Mid Canterbury a stunning 40-39 win over Wanganui in rugby’s Heartland Championship in Ashburton on Saturday.
It was a vital win which put Mid Canterbury just one point outside the top four with three games to go, including two against sides currently above them on the table, co-coach Craig Dunlea said.
Wanganui have traditionally been the side to beat in the Heartland Championship, so to beat them a week after putting 60-points on Wairarapa Bush was great for Mid Canterbury’s confidence, Dunlea said.
‘‘It was good, but at the same time we nearly let it slip as well, so we’ve just got to keep thinking about that and how we finish things off,’’ Dunlea said.
Mid Canterbury struck first barely a minute in with a try to Christian Vainerere in the corner, with Percival’s conversion the first points in a personal 20-point haul.
Willie McGoon showed great control to dot down in the corner for Mid Canterbury’s second, grabbing them the lead back after two Wanganui tries, and a Maleli Sau try extended that lead to 24-12.
Sau was in for his second just minutes later, in what was sure to be a contender for try of the season, set up by the man of the hour, Percival. Wanganui were hot on attack when Percival snatched an intercept and took off down the field. He didn’t have the gas, so slowed and put a cross field kick in which bounced favourably for Sau and Mid Canterbury were suddenly out to 31-12.
Two Wanganui tries late in the half narrowed the gap though, and the home side went to the break with a 31-24 lead, and they continued the fight-back in the second half to lead by two with time almost up.
When Mid Canterbury were awarded a penalty 45 metres out with time up, Percival again stepped up and held his nerve to win it for his side. The only kick he missed all day was a first-half penalty attempt from halfway, and even that only just missed.
It was Percival’s first start of the season, handed to him after Jason Kjestrup was struck down by illness, and there was now likely to be an internal battle on for that position, which was a good thing, Dunlea said.
Mid Canterbury play Thames Valley in Paeroa on Saturday.
Seta Koroitamana looks to free a pass during Mid Canterbury’s 40-39 win over Wanganui.