South Canterbury upset champions
South Canterbury inflicted Wanganui’s first loss in two years in the Heartland Championship with a heart-stopping 21-17 victory in Timaru.
The defending champions dominated the first half but led only 14-7 at the break and South Canterbury stole the game in the last 10 minutes with tries to wing Kavavini Leatigago and No 8 Brad Hemopo.
The win lifted South Canterbury to the top of the table, leapfrogging Wanganui, Horowhenua Kapiti and Buller to open up a two-point lead..
South Canterbury’s defence proved too tough for Wanganui to break, while the visitors’ ill discipline saw them heavily penalised, giving away penalties 10 in the first half.
For South Canterbury, prop JP Koen, lock Luke Brice and Hemopo played well, while Leatigago was dangerous every time he was in space.
Wanganui’s best were lock Sokonaia Kalou and first-five Craig Clare, while second-five Timoci Seruwalu tried to spark the attack.
The upsets continued with West Coast inflicting Horowhenua Kapiti’s first defeat of the season with a 24-18 win in Greymouth. The Coasters led all the way with first-five Tom Reekie and fullback Nik Cumming standouts.
In the forwards Troy Tauwhare played strongly in his 50th appearance while lock Lawrence Babe made a big impression in his last game before heading to Hong Kong to take up a professional contract. Halfback Jarred Ferguson also had his moments and grabbed two tries in the bonus-point win.
For Horowhenua Kapiti, prop Tiwana Paringatai had an excellent game while captain Ryan Shelford made his usual impact.
Thames Valley also surprised with a four-try, 26-7 win over previously unbeaten Buller in Paeroa.
Tighthead prop George Lelenoa and lock Connor McVerry led the way for the Swamp Foxes while hooker Hayden Wisnewski also stood out.
It was Wisnewski’s 50m-plus intercept try that sunk Buller midway through the second half, after which they struggled to have any real impact.
The game was held up for 70 minutes after Thames Valley prop Hayden Anderson broke his leg just after the start.
North Otago and Mid Canterbury both kept their Meads Cup semifinal hopes alive with contrasting wins.
The OId Golds edged out fastfinishing King Country 28-26 in Oamaru, after scoring a try and landing a penalty with a King Country player in the bin.
Lock Don Lolo, who scored two tries, No 8 Mika Mafi and prop Ralph Darling had strong games up front while first five Dan Lewis and veteran Lemi Masoe were the best of the backs.
In Masterton, Mid Canterbury inflicted a big loss on Wairarapa Bush, running in nine tries to four in the 60-24 win.
For Mid Canterbury, Willie McGoon and former All Black Regan King scored two tries each.
In the battle for the wooden spoon, Poverty Bay proved too good for East Coast, scoring five tries in winning 35-15 in Gisborne.
South Canterbury wing Kalavini Leatigago scores a brilliant individual try against Wanganui as his side upset the defending champions.