East Coast opened their Heartland Championship campaign with a hard- fought 23-16 win over the West Coast in Ruatoria yesterday.
Both sides showed plenty of attacking flair and strong defence, but ultimately East Coast proved the more polished.
Lock Everard Reid opened the scores for East Coast after just six minutes before West Coast replied with a penalty five minutes later from Corey Deans.
He then kicked another to help West Coast to a 6-5 lead, but it was short-lived with fullback John Semple finding his kicking range with a three- pointer.
Both teams opted to keep the ball in hand, with East Coast making several telling attacks, but failed to turn the pressure into points.
But that changed as halftime neared, with Reid bursting through the West Coast defence, beating several defenders before delivering an SBW- like offload to Charlie Harrison, who scored in the corner.
East Coast led 13-6 at the break, extending the lead to a further three points with a Semple penalty.
The points kept coming as the Coasters poured on the pressure. TK Moeke cut through and passed to Rua Tipoki, who jigged past two defenders to score. Semple again converted.
Following an off-ball scrap, Reid was sinbinned for punching, reducing the East Coast to 14.
The incident spurred on the West Coast, who scored tries through hardworking lock Brad Houston and prop Hamish Cochrane, who fully deserved his after a strong showing.
Meanwhile, Wanganui got their defence of the Meads Cup off to a winning, but nail-biting, start by beating Mid- Canterbury 24-23 in Ashburton. There was also a one-point result at Rugby Park in Te Kuiti, where North Otago defeated King Country 31-30.
East Coast 23 (Everard Reid, Tau Moeke, Rua Tipoki tries; Joel Semple con, 2 pen) West Coast 16 (Brad Houston, Rowan O'Gorman tries; Corey Deans 2 pen). HT: 13-6.
Wairarapa Bush 32 (Cameron Hayton, Johan Van Vliet tries; Glen Walters 2 con, 6pen) South Canterbury 21 (Sekope Maea, Aporasa Tabulawaki 2 tries; Kurt Rooney 2 pen). HT: 16-15
North Otago 31 (Samisoni Tongotongo, Tala Fagasoia, Ralph Darling, Chris Talanoa tries; Hamish Buick 4 con, pen) King Country 30 (Rupeni Seduadua 2, Ben Draper tries; Kurt Strachan 3 con, 3 pen). HT: 14-9
Wanganui 24 (Asalemo Malo, Darren Munro tries; Mark Davis con, 4 pen) Mid-Canterbury 23 (James Carr, Mac Sykes tries; Andrew Letham 2 con, 3 pen). HT: 6-18
Poverty Bay 31 (Andrew Gardner, Henry Yortt, Kelvin Smith, Paula Tikomainaivalu tries; Scott Leighton 4 con, pen) Horowhenua Kapiti 15 (Sonny McBride 4 pen; Perry Hayman pen). HT: 12-14
Buller 24 (James Foster, Apenisa Ratugoieavanua tries; Marty Banks con, 4 pen) Thames Valley 14 (Jason Laurich, Blake Hill tries; Brook Tremayne 2 con). HT: 0-13
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