2020 Buller Club Final Review WESTPORT CLAIM SENIOR SHIELD

The Westport Senior rugby team has won the Buller Rugby Union’s Senior Shield for 2020, going through the season unbeaten, when they defeated Old Boys in the WestReef final on Saturday.

Played at George Craddock Memorial Park in ideal conditions it was the experience of the Westport players in a final that saw them repulse a very strong challenge from their opponents.

Because of the Level two Covid 19 restrictions the crowd numbers were limited, but those who did secure tickets were treated to a first-class match of running rugby. Both sides were adapt at moving the ball wide at every opportunity, but also prepared to defend when needed.

Westport 25 v Old Boys 13.

It was Westport, the unbeaten favorites, who started this game off at a frenetic pace. In the opening three minutes they had Old Boys pinned back on their own line and had crossed the line three times, only to be called back for an infringement. To Old Boys credit they were defending flat out but Westport had just too much ball, due to the work being done by Kahu Parata, Zach Walsh and Stephen Crackett, who challenged the line continuously.

While Old Boys struggled to clear their line as Westport kept the pressure on it was Westport No 8 Zach Walsh who opened the scoring from a five metre scrum at the seventh minute.

This seemed to awaken the Old Boy side who then began to take the game back to Westport. Half back Thor Manawatu was getting good ball from his forwards, led by Ben Pratt and Cole McBride, while Jesse Pitman – Joass was organizing his backline. With Alex Lean and Hendrix Babbington able to break the defensive line it was up to the Westport backs to attempt to shut them down. Tok Samuels and Corey Jenkins in the mid field had their hands full as they were run at.

Eventually, at the 30-minute mark, Old Boys got the try they had worked hard to set up. Turn over ball, won by Grant Fussell and Ben Pratt, saw Old Boys run the ball. A long cut out pass from Pitman – Joass sent his winger Hendrix Babbington away to score, and it was now 5 all. Five minutes later pressure from the underdogs saw Westport give away a penalty. Pitman – Joass converted this and Old Boys had a deserved 8 – 5 lead heading into the half time break.

This wasn’t to be the half time score though as Old Boys then conceded two penalties inside two minutes, which were both kicked by Westport fullback Joel Hands, and suddenly Westport led 11 – 8 at the break. These mistakes possibly came from inexperience from the young Old Boys side leading into a break, but it was a valuable six points for Westport.

Westport’s half time lead didn’t last long into the second half as it was Old Boys who started the final 40 minutes on attack. Blaine Meikle had come on as Old Boys halfback and he was able to get his backline moving with some crisp passing. Again, Westport had to defend, with Scott Neighbours and winger Mitieli Kaloudigibeci making numerous tackles. At the 10-minute mark Old Boys full back Jacob Poynter got the ball in his hands with room to move and he scored to put his side back in front 13 – 11, much to his supporter’s delight.

This delight wasn’t to last though as Westport, from the kickoff, came back strongly with Scott Neighbours scoring in the left-hand corner, leaving would be tacklers in his wake. Joel Hands converted from the sideline, and Westport had the lead again 18 – 13 two minutes later.

With Westport having the better of the set pieces they now began to keep Old Boys on the back foot. The front row of Stephen Crackett, Glen Duncan, and Mark Crackett was rock solid, while Jason Thomas and Kyle Te Tai were dominating the lineout.

 At no stage in the final 20 minutes did Old Boys ease off trying to break through, or let up on, their attacking and defensive workload. Westport winger Logan Heath did manage to finish off a try, that Hands converted, at the 23-minute mark, but at 25 – 13 Old Boys were still in the game. It was Westport who gradually shut the game down as they denied Old Boys the ball to attack with. Even the introduction of “super sub” Solly Boyer wasn’t enough for Old Boys to claw the score back.

At the final whistle it was a jubilant Westport side who had taken the spoils in a very entertaining match that they had had to work extremely hard at to deny Old Boys after 80 minutes.

Old Boys, although disappointed at the result, will look back on a game that they were right in there for the complete time, and but for a couple of turnovers may have achieved a different result.

For Westport, this game saw them with a complete cleanup of the Buller Rugby Unions main trophies, adding the Senior Shield to the first round Albion Cup, the second round Life Members Trophy, plus holding the Farmlands Foote Shield Challenge Trophy.

As runners up, Old Boys were awarded the Max Elley Memorial Trophy.

Old Boy coach, Andrew Duncan, described it as a, “great game of rugby. I was thrilled with how the team defended. It was a courageous performance from Old Boys, and I was very proud of their effort.”

Commenting on his sides performance, Westport coach, Craig Adams was, “extremely pleased with the result. We have had a really positive season. We have a quality group of men on and off the field.”

Referee Gary Reilly and his assistants, Phil Grafton, Zin Halsall, and Murray Watt, controlled the final in what was a free-flowing game.

Points Scorers.

Westport tries to Zach Walsh, Scott Neighbours, Logan Heath.   Joel Hands 2 penalties and 2 conversions.

Old Boy tries to Hendrix Babbington, Jacob Poynter.   Jesse Pitman – Joass penalty.

Players of the day.

Westport. Kahu Parata.  Zach Walsh.

Old Boys. Jesse Pitman – Joass.  Blaine Meikle.

West Coast Senior Final.

Kiwi 33 v Wests 19

Sat.12 September at Hanmer
Sat.19 September at Timaru
Sat. 26 September at Westport


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