by Chris Tobin
The South Canterbury rugby team came home from its latest foray to the West Coast with some silverware in its baggage.
The local side won the Mitre 10 Lochore Cup final against a determined West Coast team 23-19 on a rain and wind-swept John Sturgeon Park in Greymouth on Saturday.
The victory went some way to overcoming the disappointment of not making the play-offs for the top tier Lochore Cup for the first time in five years and made up for a dismal second-half performance against West Coast two weeks before when the Coasters beat them 27-24 in Timaru.
On two successive weekends South Canterbury showed character in managing to beat first Buller and then West Coast on their home grounds.
And it wasn’t easy on Saturday.
A fired-up West Coast team desperate to win its first ever trophy in Heartland rugby; boisterous local supporters, a strong wind and the almost inevitable patches of wet weather added to the challenge facing South Canterbury.
The green and blacks could be thankful for the trusty boot of Willie Wright, playing at first five-eighth instead of his usual halfback position.
Whenever he took kicks at goal, some of the crowd provided a jeering chorus but Wright responded by clinically slotting the ball between the posts, one of them a remarkable banana kick effort, due to the windy conditions.
South Canterbury played with the wind at its back in the first-half and led 10-0 after 25 minutes with a try to flanker Anthony Amato and a Wright penalty.
A West Coast try wide out to No8 Amenatave Tukana went unconverted and just before the break South Canterbury edged out the gap again after Kalavini Leatigaga scored and Wright converted to make it 17-5.
A tough battle was expected in the second-half with the Coasters having the wind advantage.
Skipper Troy Tauwhare scored for the West Coast after a charge from a lineout converted by Jesse Pittman-Joass.
Two penalties in the 55th and 68th minutes were both calmly converted by Wright.
West Coast threw everything at South Canterbury in the final minutes but the green and blacks held on for an exceptional win to take the Lochore Cup for the second time since 2013.
Southern neighbour North Otago made it a good weekend for the Hanan Shield rugby region by winning the Meads Cup final in Oamaru 33-19 over Wanganui.