by Chris Tobin
Leading 24-10 with less than 20 minutes to play, South Canterbury looked to be on track for a strong win over West Coast in Heartland Mitre 10 rugby in Timaru on Saturday but then a horror show kicked in.
West Coast flipped a switch and mauled the green and blacks, dominating possession and launching attack after attack.
By the time the final whistle blew, to the disappointment of locals, West Coast had run in three late tries and flipped the 24-10 deficit around to make it 27-24 in its favour.
South Canterbury suffered a similar fate the week before when it had led defending champions Thames Valley 21-7 before losing and plunging from competition co-leader to sixth.
After the loss to West Coast on Saturday, it ended the round robin in seventh place.
The disappointment was made more acute by the fact it will be the first time in five seasons South Canterbury will not be in the Meads Cup playoffs.
South Canterbury will travel over to Westport on Saturday to meet Buller in a semifinal of the bottom tier competition, the Lochore Cup.
Buller thumped West Coast 47-7 on its home turf two weeks ago and had a solid 36-26 win over Poverty Bay on Saturday.
The last time South Canterbury and Buller met was on September 21, when South Canterbury won 38-27, but South Canterbury could be up against a more determined Buller this time as Buller tries to do its part to make it an all-West Coast final. West Coast is hosting Poverty Bay in the other Lochore Cup semifinal.
In Saturday’s match, South Canterbury had been good in patches and all appeared to be going to plan as it shot to a 17-0 lead after 26 minutes through tries to Siu Kakala, captain Miles Medlicott and Zac Saunders.
A sinbinning of Medlicott didn’t help the team’s cause and in his absence West Coast halfback Jarrod Ferguson scored to peg it back to 17-5 at halftime.
Another West Coast try early in the second half kept the West Coast fires burning but a superb set piece bonus point try in which winger Clarence Moli dotted down between the posts took South Canterbury out to a 24-10 advantage.
Then the speed wobbles really set in. South Canterbury looked lacklustre and directionless as West Coast ran it ragged, dashing in for three tries to achieve a remarkable comeback victory.
Saturday’s scorers: West Coast 27 (Jarrod Ferguson, Sean McClure, Steve Soper, Jade Coleman, Logan Winter tries; McClure con) bt South Canterbury 24 (Siu Kakala, Miles Medlicott, Zac Saunders, Clarence Moli tries; Willie Wright 2 con). HT: 17-5 South Canterbury.
Points after Saturday’s matches: Thames Valley 30, North Otago 29, Wairarapa Bush 29, Wanganui 28, West Coast 27, Buller 26, South Canterbury 25, Poverty Bay 20, Horowhenua Kapiti 17, King Country 13, Mid Canterbury 10, East Coast 3.