Sth Canty stun Wanganui
It wasn’t pretty but it didn’t matter as South Canterbury stunned Wanganui to go on top of the Heartland Championship.
After South Canterbury struggled in the first half no-one in the stands was counting on a late comeback to steal the win over the defending champions.
A brilliant individual try from wing Kalavini Leatigago sparked South Canterbury into life and No.8 Brad Hemopo sealed the win with five minutes left in the game.
Wanganui are measuring stick when it comes to the Heartland Championships, regularly in the Meads Cup final and five times champions.
The win was only South Canterbury’s second over the ‘Butcher Boys’ in 12 years and delighted coach Barry Matthews.
‘‘It was a huge win, I’m rapt. It means we are back in the running for a spot in the semis.’’
Matthews said however there was still plenty to do.
‘‘It wasn’t perfect but you have to be happy any time you take the points off Wanganui.’’
South Canterbury also ran in three tries to one and kept Wanganui’s second half points to a single penalty, in a game that had the intensity of a final.
Wanganui coach Jason Caskey rued his side’s ill discipline, especially on attack.
‘‘Our goal is to give away no more than 10 penalties in a game and we did that in the first half. We started the season well putting 79 points on Wairarapa but since then have misfired and stuttered.’’
Caskey said their were no excuses and South Canterbury did enough to win.
‘‘It was a good day and a good track, we got into a good position but couldn’t finish it off.’’
South Canterbury had to make one late change before kick off with captain Kieran Coll missing the game as he awaited the birth of his second child, with BJ Oliver taking his place on the blindside and Nick Strachan taking over the captaincy.
With a strong easterly at their backs Wanganui got a away to very good start with an early penalty to first five Craig Clare. With 13 minutes gone second five Timoci Seruwalu proved too strong close to the line and scored, then Clare added another penalty to be up 11-0, as South Canterbury were starved of the ball.
It took until the 32nd minute for South Canterbury to have a chance and they made the most, with hooker Marac Beckham driving over, and Willie Wright adding the conversion.
Wanganui had the final say of the half with with another Clare penalty and despite their dominance and the wind Wanganui were only up 14-7.
The visitors again tested South Canterbury earlier in the second half but some superb defence meant they only gave up a penalty. Midway through the half Wanganui still looked comfortable as both sides rolled on their substitutes.
Leatigago then came up with a piece of magic when he beat his man on the outside and carved his way infield, beating the fullback to score under the posts and South Canterbury were suddenly only three points behind.
With six minutes left South Canterbury turned down the opportunity to kick for goal, for a draw, and it paid a big dividend when Hemopo came off the back of a 5m scrum and proved unstoppable close to the line, to steal an unlikely win. For South Canterbury JP Koen, Luke Brice and Hemopo impressed in the forwards while halfback Willie Wright did well under pressure.
First five Miles Medlicott had some nice touches while outside him Vatiliai Tora kept Wanganui’s dangerman Serwalu under warps.
Wanganui’s best were lock Sokonaia Kalou, who caused headaches on the South Canterbury throw, No.8 Bryn Hudson and first five Craig Clare.
The good news for South Canterbury is there is still plenty of room for improvement despite sitting at the top of the table two points clear.
South Canterbury scored three tries against Wanganui in Timaru on Saturday, including ones by Kalavini Leatigago and Brad Hemopo in their 21-17 victory.