Kicker snatches Coastal victory
Rick McKenna made sure Coastal get an extra day of gate and bar takings after he kicked a last-minute sideline penalty to give his side a 26-23 win over Inglewood on Saturday.
The kick, one of six he landed in an impeccable display, earned Coastal a home semifinal, back in Rahotu against the same opposition this week. The other will be played at Sanders Park when Tukapa host New Plymouth Old Boys.
McKenna's penalty was a cruel blow for Inglewood who, without several frontline players, put everything they had into the game.
They were much the better side for long periods, especially the first half when they dominated possession, territory and the scoreboard, leading 11-0 at the break.
Their domination was also reflected in the penalty count which favoured them nine to one after 40 minutes.
Remarkably, and after what must have been some terse words at the interval, Coastal came out a different outfit, not conceding a single penalty in the second half.
They also managed a couple of tries, as well as four McKenna penalties and a couple of conversions.
While the former Taranaki age-group rep would have received plenty of plaudits after the game, he was nowhere near as influential as barnstorming lock Kane Barrett who grabbed the game by the collar and told his team-mates to follow him.
If he was not disrupting the Inglewood lineout, he was making punishing tackles, clearing rucks and, most importantly, carting the ball over the advantage line time and again.
He was outstanding and will surely be one of the first names Taranaki coach Colin Cooper etches on to his team sheet when the Ranfurly Shield goes on the line against King Country later this month.
As they have done for most of the season, Coastal positioned Barrett in the midfield from second phase possession.
Knowing what is going to happen and stopping Barrett are two different things, however, as he attracted plenty of defence.
The problem for Coastal was what they did afterwards, spilling passes or firing them forward.
Still, they did enough against an Inglewood side that refused to admit it was beaten, scoring tries in the second half to Chris Brown and Telly Hemopo to edge in front.
From conceding just one in the first half, Inglewood gave away a handful which proved fatal with McKenna in such a sharp shooting mood.
While Coastal took the spoils, and the big advantage of being at home this week, they will need to improve before that time.
"We left ourselves a lot of work to do in the second half," Coastal captain Nick Lawn said. "But the boys showed some real character, dug deep and bounced back. Full credit to them [Inglewood], they came out firing."
Lawn was unsure if coming off the bye was a contributing factor in their slow start.
"We talked about it and we trained pretty hard on the Tuesday and Thursdays between times but both times after the bye we haven't started well, so it could be a factor."
On the marked improvement in their discipline in the second half, Lawn felt their lack of physicality at the breakdown forced them into giving away penalties in the first 40 minutes. "I think in the second half we started to win that battle and that was difference in turning things around and getting on the front foot."
As for Barrett, Lawn had nothing but praise.
"He's had an awesome season and hopefully he can keep it going because he gives us go-forward all the time and he's playing outstanding at the moment."
Inglewood's management team was rightfully proud of the effort its players put in, which was typified by openside flanker James Oakes.
Having played in midfield all season, Oakes was forced to slip on the No 7 jersey with regular Berny Hall one of several loose forwards unavailable.
As well as scoring a try, Oakes was a great link man, made several crucial tackles and was generally not far from the ball. He had plenty of support from captain Heiden Bedwell-Curtis at No8, while replacement hooker Timo Tutavaha made an impact when he came on at the half hour mark.
Second five-eighth Cole Brown was also in impressive form, making several breaks while his defence was punishing at times.
Elsewhere, Tukapa warmed up for their semifinal showdown with a 53-13 thrashing of Stratford in Stratford.
Second five-eighth Nathan Hohaia was in excellent form, scoring two of Tukapa's nine tries as their forwards did a number on a depleted Stratford front eight.
Tukapa No8 Ben Siffleet provided some good front-foot ball for halfback Jamison Gibson-Park who also chimed in with a brace of tries.
Stratford's best were hooker Simon Childs who had to switch to prop while Mick Hall made an impact off the bench when he came on at blindside flanker.
Clifton and Spotswood United played out a 30-all draw at Tikorangi.
Clifton first five-eighth Brad Cooper could have won the match for his side but his conversion hit the upright.
With nothing to play for, both sides played open rugby in near-perfect conditions.
Veteran No8 Scott Breman was good for Clifton in his 240th match as was halfback Kylem O'Donnell.
Spotswood United's best players were wing Waisake Naholo and lock Richard Sutton.
Southern predictably got the better of Eltham-Kaponga, winning 38-8 in Hawera.
Most of Southern's points came near the start and end of the match as the combined side battled hard to keep the score down. Lock Jeremy Newell played well for the visitors.
Taranaki Daily News