Lash’s last-minute drop goal saves Buller blushes
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.