Lash’s last-minute drop goal saves Buller blushes

Sunday News - - RUGBY - STU PIDDINGTON

A James Lash drop goal with three min­utes left stole a cru­cial win for Buller against North Otago in the third round of the Heart­land Cham­pi­onships.

In good bat­tle in West­port, North Otago cer­tainly came to play and were un­lucky not to go away with the points after a strong sec­ond half.

The Old Golds were up 10-0 early, but found them­selves 27-10 at the break.

With the wind at their backs in the sec­ond half North Otago roared back to lead 31-30 un­til a piece of magic from Lash.

It was the sec­ond week in a row the tal­ented first-five had landed a cru­cial ’pot’.

For Buller, flanker Blair McIl­roy had a strong game while half­back An­drew Stephens also played very well in his 101st run out for the prov­ince.

There was, how­ever no go­ing past Lash’s per­for­mance, who was tac­ti­cally su­perb and had the skills to back it up, scor­ing 23 of Buller’s 33 points.

North Otago’s stand-out was prop Ralph Dar­ling, who popped up all over the pad­dock with strong runs, while No.8 Mika Mafi also caught the eye.

In the backs, An­tini Brown and Josh Buchan also played well.

The win left Buller tied in sec­ond place with South Can­ter­bury, just a point adrift of both HEART­LAND CHAM­PI­ONSHIP Wan­ganui and sur­prise pack­age Horowhenua Kapiti, in what is shap­ing up to be a tight com­pe­ti­tion.

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Wan­ganui did not have it all their own way in the wet against Poverty Bay, win­ning 25-14.

The ’Butcher Boys’ didn’t grab a fourth try for a bonus point, so the cham­pi­onship has squeezed up at the top of the ta­ble.

For Wan­ganui young open­side An­gus Mid­dle­ton played very well is his first start, while first-five Craig Clare put in his usual ex­cel­lent per­for­mance.

Poverty Bay’s best were cap­tain James Gro­gan, who played out of po­si­tion at No.8, and wing An­drew Tau­at­e­valu, also on de­but.

South Can­ter­bury man­aged to grab max­i­mum points against neigh­bours Mid Can­ter­bury and also de­fended the Hanan Shield with a 31-16 win.

Ath­letic No.8 Brad He­mopo was out­stand­ing for South Can­ter­bury in de­but, grab­bing two tries.

Hooker Marac Beck­ham also im­pressed, while in the backs cen­tre Shayne An­der­son made sev­eral clean breaks.

For Mid Can­ter­bury cap­tain Eric Duff was im­pres­sive all over the Ash­bur­ton Show­grounds, se­cur­ing plenty of ball in li­ne­outs and scor­ing a try in his side’s late rally, while young No.8 Sam Finau made strong runs.

In Levin the heavy rain played a big part in the low scor­ing en­counter, but home side Horowhenua Kapiti got home 13-10 over Thames Val­ley.

The Swamp Foxes flew out of the blocks early with a try to Ge­orge Le­lenoa in the open­ing two min­utes, and then looked to have stolen it at the death.

Thames Val­ley play­ers were cer­tain the ball had been grounded, but the ref­eree ruled it had been held up.

For Thames Val­ley open­side flanker Spence Bishop had a huge game, while Horowhenua Kapiti’s best play­ers were blind­side flanker Brett Runga and cen­tre Sam McCa­hon.

In the other games King Coun­try got past Wairarapa Bush 32-25 in Te Kuiti, while West Coast beat East Coast 32-19.

For West Coast Tom Reekie also dropped goal, as well as scor­ing a try and adding two con­ver­sions.

For­mer All Black Re­gan King showed his ex­pe­ri­ence for Mid Can­ter­bury.

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