Coastal continue to dominate
Video: Tukapa defeat InglewoodGLENN MCLEAN
The scrap for a playoff spot in Taranaki senior A rugby continues after another week of close encounters between the top sides.
While competition leaders Coastal continued their unbeaten run with a tight 23-17 win over Stratford, Clifton moved up to fourth with a remarkable late victory 20-17 over Southern, while Tukapa edged Inglewood 12-6 in a dour tussle.
New Plymouth Old Boys crept up to second with a 38-13 win over Eltham-Kaponga.
It all means there are just five points separating the five teams sitting below Coastal, who enjoy a five-point buffer over the chasing pack.
Clifton's manner of victory was one most of their players are unlikely to experience again.
Down 17-8 with just two minutes left to play at Hawera, the visitors chanced their arm and threw some speculative passes, including one to send Steven Warner over.
From the kickoff they ran it straight back at Southern, kept the ball alive and threw some more dangerous passes, that stuck, before Kylem O'Donnell found his way to the tryline to grab the match-winner, which was converted by Brad Cooper to give Clifton the win.
While they still made plenty of mistakes, Clifton showed a heap of tenacity to fight to the end against a Southern side that was expected to win after they tipped over defending champion Tukapa last week.
O'Donnell continued his good form since his return from national sevens duty, while Ryan Cocker proved a valuable ring-in from the B side to put in a good performance at lock. There were also notable contributions from Tama Blackburn on the wing and fullback Eddie Ule.
Southern coach Daryl Lilley was rightly disappointed his side could not protect their lead in what could prove to be a costly loss for the Hawera-based side.
Lilley was dumbfounded at the number of penalties his side conceded – 21 in all – as they were punished heavily at the breakdown by referee Lionel Shaw.
In the end the high penalty count probably cost Southern victory, although Lilley was quick to commend Clifton for how they played out the 80 minutes.
Southern also missed influential first five-eighth Daniel Brooks but the club will take heart from the performance of Brent Flanders, who made the step up from the Colts grade with aplomb.
It was back to basics for Tukapa in the Cast Iron Services feature match of the day against Inglewood.
Having to play with a slippery ball for just the second time this season, Tukapa kept it close to their pack for long periods in what proved to be an extremely testy match.
Both sides were guilty of some aimless kicking, inaccurate passing and ill-discipline, which was highlighted by the late sending off of Tukapa centre Orisi Belau for stomping on a would-be-defender after he dropped the ball, while Inglewood replacement Maifea Maifea was yellow-carded for a high tackle that resulted in flanker Alfred Veikoso having to leave the field.
In the end a try-scoring double from impressive No8 Adrian Wyrill proved the difference as Inglewood could only reply with a penalty and drop goal from Chris Brown.
Those six points almost looked as if they would be enough, however, as Inglewood clung on to a 6-5 lead with less than 10 minutes to play before Wyrill scored his second try, taking his tally for the season to eight.
"It was tough and we knew it would be a hard 80 minutes, so I'm really rapt with the way the boys stuck at it, even when we were down to 14 men," Tukapa coach Kelvin McDowell said. "Hopefully this is a good step forward for us."
Tukapa's scrum again proved a valuable asset after they managed to put constant pressure on the home side.
McDowell admitted his side's first priority was to play no-frills rugby.
"We wanted to keep it simple, get our forwards going forward because they have got loosies that like to be running around, so we wanted to keep it tight and get into the trenches a little bit," he said. "I thought it worked well."
McDowell said he was surprised Belau had been red-carded after referee Cam Stone told him he was sent off for a "suspected" stomp.
"I thought it could have been a yellow card. But it's done and if he did do it it was silly, but we'll see what happens there."
Inglewood would be disappointed they could not really create try-scoring opportunities with the possession they enjoyed.
Flanker Berny Hall was one player to stand out, while second five-eighth James Oakes showed some nice touches.
Coastal had to battle hard to get past a committed Stratford side who were having their old timers' day.
Stratford coach Chris Drummond felt his side "gifted" Coastal two tries through their mistakes but he was pleased with the majority of their play.
After conceding a try inside three minutes, Stratford fought back to level the game 10-10 at the break. That good work was undone when they conceded a second try straight after halftime.
Cody Hall played well at first five-eighth while Scott Davidson continued his good form a place outside him.
Coastal coach Joe Lawn was satisfied his team did enough to rack up their 10th win of the season. Captain Nick Lawn was impressive, as was fullback Steve Barron.
New Plymouth Old Boys got off to a cracking start against Eltham-Kaponga, racing out to a 19-0 lead after seven minutes.
There was no way back for the combined side from there, although they did enjoy a long period of domination in the first half.
They carried that into the second half with the score 19-13 with 20 minutes to go before Old Boys finished with a flourish.
Eltham-Kaponga coach Brendan Crowley said Ian Austin played well at lock, while he also had praise for openside flanker Adam Joblin.
Old Boys' best player was hooker Andrew Gadsby.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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