Town hold on for thrilling win
Town withstood a final assault by Country to win their entertaining annual senior rugby encounter 31-27 at Alpine Energy Stadium yesterday.
Despite making 10 changes to the advertised programme Town looked to have it in the bag, up 26-12 with 15 minutes gone in the second half.
Country however had a purple patch, firing up to lead 27-26 with four minutes left to play.
A great break however down the blindside by substitute halfback Tom Watson got Town close and several phases later Timaru Tafa went over to hand them the lead.
Country had a chance to snatch it in the final minute when substitute loose forward Joeli Kotobalavu made a fine charging run towards the posts but lost the ball over the line.
Town then withstood their final attack to win the game.
Country started the game well with an individual piece of brilliance from left wing Rupeni Cokasanagi that saw him create a try from nothing, with Will Hands converting.
From the kickoff Town's Matt Stewart picked up the loose ball and fed fellow lock Doug Hill, who ran strongly to score.
His brother, Tyrone, added the extras to tie the game up.
Doug Hill then had a double within five minutes and while the conversion was missed Tyrone added a penalty midway through the half to give Town a 15-7 lead.
Country flanker Johnny Andrews closed the gap when he burrowed over but Hill again gave Town some breathing space with his second penalty to make the halftime score 18-12.
The lead was stretched again after a decisive run from Town centre Hau Kaumatule, who beat several players and linked with wing Jarred Mannex, who went over in a tackle.
Hill's third penalty got the advantage to 14 points and it looked over for Country.
However, they responded brilliantly when Cokasanagi made a telling run up the left-hand touch, including a miscued kick that he recovered himself, and then fed support player George Folau, who scored.
Hands converted and then landed a penalty to set the game alight.
Five minutes later Folau's midfield partner Fa'aitu Tuamoheloa went over with a strong run, with several tacklers hanging on, to snatch the lead 27-26 for what looked like an unlikely victory, given the state of the game 20 minutes earlier.
Town, however, went back on attack and Mannex's try gave them the lead back and despite a late surge from Country they held on.
For Town, Doug Hill was prominent early scoring two good tries, while Tyrone Hill had a tidy game at first-five.
Second-five Junior Fa'avae played well in defence, having been moved from his accustomed No 8 spot, while captain Nathan Tubb was in everything.
The packs did their best to cancel each other out and for the main that is what happened.
Country's best were wing Cokasanagi, who must have all but sealed a place in the South Canterbury Heartland side. Centre Tuamoheloa was all class while in the forwards No 8 Paula Fonokalafi had a tidy game.
Referee Grant Day had a good day, keeping the game flowing in the sunshine in front of a decent crowd.
Interested observer, Heartland coach Chester Scott, was giving little away.
"Everyone fronted up. It was a good game and a chance to see some different combinations."
The Timaru Herald