Coastal kick their way to title decider
Coastal earned their fifth trip to the grand final when they edged Inglewood 18-15 in trying conditions at the Rahotu Domain.
And again the side relied heavily on the boot of halfback Rick McKenna. Just as he did the week before, McKenna booted his side to victory.
Two of McKenna's six penalty goals came in the first half when Coastal played into the wind and rain, with the last coming with eight minutes remaining to give his side the lead.
Coastal's previous trip to the final was in 2009, when they beat Inglewood 16-0 to claim their first title, having been beaten finalists the previous two years. Their other finals appearance was in 1998, when they lost to New Plymouth Old Boys.
"Conditions are a great leveller," Coastal coach Joe Lawn said. "It's always good to get a win and it's good to make the final."
Lawn said he was reasonably happy at halftime, even though his side trailed 10-6.
"We did bloody well in the first half playing into the wind and rain. To let them in so softly for a try just before halftime was disappointing. We finally got things sorted in the last 20 minutes and played position and kicked the goals. It was always going to be tight in those conditions."
It was a struggle on Saturday, with both teams adopting similar tactics of close-in runners on a playing surface cut up from the curtain-raiser.
Inglewood had first use of the strong wind but didn't have the kicking game to capitalise. They had the early lead courtesy of a Thomas Brown penalty goal, but with a few rulings going Coastal's way, the home side had their noses in front after 30 minutes thanks to two McKenna penalty goals. With time running out in the first half, Inglewood launched a late raid into the Coastal 22. Coastal looked to have things under control from the resulting lineout but turned the ball over and Inglewood flanker James Oakes pounced. He charged ahead, bumped off a couple of tacklers and scored under the posts.
With Brown's conversion, Inglewood led 10-6 but one had the feeling it wasn't going to be enough.
An early second-half penalty goal by McKenna trimmed the gap and with the Coastal forwards working well as a unit, momentum was with the home side.
But a slick try against the run of play sparked Inglewood into life. Brown ran wide from a scrum about 30 metres out from the Coastal line and passed to centre Avon Lewis, who ran hard and straight to score and extend the lead to 15-9.
Inglewood's forwards, led by inspirational lock Germaine Anaha and captain Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, began to dominate with hard, direct running.
But good players step up when most needed and McKenna banged over two penalty goals within two minutes to level the scores, before his matchwinner with eight minutes to go.
McKenna was the outstanding figure on the park, not only for his goal-kicking - he kicked six from nine - but general play behind the Coastal pack led by hooker Mitchell Campbell and flanker Jade Fleming. McKenna cleared the slippery ball well, varied his kicking and organised the "pick and go" runners.
COASTAL 18 (R McKenna 6 pen) INGLEWOOD 15 (A Lewis, J Oakes tries; T Brown con, pen). HT: 6-10.
Taranaki Daily News