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Wintery blast doesn’t dampen Old Boys or Westport

Rugby was played in less than ideal conditions in Buller on the weekend as the Westreef Services senior rugby competition resumed. Old Boys scored a tight victory over White Star at their home ground at Cradock Park while Westport recorded a tough bonus point victory on the road against Reefton at the Rosco Contractors grounds.

Reefton 12-26 Westport
Competition leaders Westport made their mark on the game early in Reefton as they scored twice inside the opening 10 minutes. Both tries were scored by impressive prop Tapi Allen who was a menace close to the line. Flynn Aldridge was able to convert one of those tries to give Westport an early 12-0 lead.

Reefton, who hadn’t played for three weeks due to team illness and the Queens Birthday break were a little out of sorts in the early going however soon found their groove as they began to control the ball. After a couple of raids inside the Westport half, they were soon rewarded with a try to captain Hemi Manawatu who used his strength to barge his way over the line. Brother Thor Manawatu converted to close the gap to 12-7 mid way through the first half.

Both teams showed a great desire to move the ball in the wet conditions. The midfield battle was keenly contested as Westport’s Logan Heath and Mitieli Kaloudigibeci were going toe to toe with Reefton’s Brad Welch and new UK import Joe Flexman.

On the stroke of halftime, Westport landed a crucial blow by scoring a try on the buzzer as new recruit Jamie Tinetti found his way on the score sheet with a try. Aldridge converted from the touchline as Westport went into the break with a comfortable 19-7 lead.

Both forward packs were enjoying their day out in Reefton. The scrums were well contested and both lineouts functioned well, despite the slippery conditions. Again, Westport started the half better when play resumed as competition leading try scorer Kaloudigibeci signed off his 100th appearance for Westport with a try after he sliced through the defense to then outsprint the covering Reefton defenders to score under the posts. The conversion created a healthy 26-7 lead for the visitors and another four try bonus point.

Reefton used their kicking game to good effect as halfback Thor Manawatu tried his best to keep his big forwards moving ahead. With twenty minutes remaining in the game, that field position turned into points for the hosts as flanker Hayden White successfully charged down a defensive clearing kick from Westport. White was able to regather and score to close the margin to 26-12.

As the weather closed in for the final quarter of the match, both teams were able to clear their benches. The fresh legs and new combinations created plenty of energy however no further score was added as the full-time whistle blew.

Westport will be pleased to walk away with full points from the fixture, especially given the tough nature of the conditions. Reefton will know they were in the contest for large parts of the game but will be ruing their starts to both halves where Westport caused the most damage.

Referee: Andrew Duncan

Old Boys 20-15 White Star
Despite a second half comeback from White Star, Old Boys were able to do enough to score a crucial win on Saturday. Old Boys welcomed back plenty of firepower to their squad this week and it was one of their dominant forwards Tim Dallison who opened the scoring early. Sam Jope was able to strike a first half penalty for White Star in a low scoring opening 40 minutes in the wet and greasy conditions. The 7-3 halftime lead for Old Boys was built on a solid defensive effort led well by loose forwards Jack Aldridge, Haami Commons and Isei Lewaqai. White Star too had plenty of defensive leaders including the impressive Finn Forsyth who put his body on the line in a courageous display at blindside flanker.

The second half was a little more open as both sides attempted to go to width to try and breach each other’s defense. Old Boys did find success when winger Hendrix Babbington was able to score to extend the Old Boys lead. Things got even better for the home side when popular front rower Kyle Roberts found his way over the line to give Old Boys a handy 17-3 lead mid-way through the second half.

White Star were finding good gains through the middle of the park, mainly through the strong ball carrying from Anthony Ellis who was at his destructive best. The Buller captain managed to get White Star well and truly back into the fixture when he picked up a brace of tries to have the margin back to two points as Old Boys held a slender 17-15 lead.

With time ticking down, both teams emptied the tanks in a last attempt to claim the competition points. A penalty goal to Old Boys Bailen Larking was the final scoring play of the game as Old Boys recorded an important 20-15 victory.

For Old Boys, they will be thrilled to leave with four points from the game. Their forwards got through a power of defensive work and their backs, led by halfback Viliami Akuola directed play well. White Star will be disappointed not to have converted some missed opportunities but still can draw some positives from the performances of some of their younger players.

With Westport now sailing away in front, the race for the remaining two playoff spots is widely open.

Referee: Nathan Thompson

Players of the Day:
White Star: Finn Forsyth and Keir Barry
Old Boys: Viliami Akuola and Kyle Roberts
Reefton: Scott Rosanowski and Bevan Thomson
Westport: Stephen Crackett and Jamie Tinetti

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