Buller blow Poverty Bay away MATCH REPORT

Francis Mining Buller have scored back-to-back home victories in the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship after they beat Poverty Bay 48-20 at Victoria Square on Saturday. Buller produced a clinical performance in the round 3 fixture scoring 7 tries on route to claiming the maximum five competition points which has them sitting in third equal position on the standings.

A good crowd settled in to watch the match with the Buller Rugby celebrating three sides from 1972, 1992 and 2012 who had reunions on the day. The match was also played at the earlier time of 12:05pm to coincide with live TV coverage on Sky Sport and free-to-air Prime TV.

Buller had first use of the breeze at their backs in the opening half and used their kicking game to dominate the territorial battle in the early stages. Fullback Jesse Pitman-Joass kicked two 50:22 kicks in the opening 10 minutes which gave Buller some early opportunities to attack inside the Poverty Bay red-zone. The home side were unable to finish off any chances early as they struggled to win their set-piece ball, or they conceded penalties which gave Poverty Bay the opportunity to clear.

Buller five-eight Jack Parker was able to land a penalty goal to open the scoring in the match and this early lead was extended on the 20-minute mark when winger Mitieli Kaloudigibeci finished off a try in the corner after beating the cover defence. Parker’s sideline conversion gave Buller a 10-nil lead which was good reward after they had made most of the play. Poverty Bay were able to score their first points of the afternoon through a penalty goal landed by fullback Moses Christie after dominating at scrum time which was bearing some early fruit for them.

The home side responded and landed two crucial blows before the half hour mark scoring two tries in quick succession. The first try was from a set piece lineout where big lock Te Puoho Stephens gave the team some front foot ball to play with after a hard carry at the defensive line. The next phase saw locking partner Isei Lewaqai find a hole in the Poverty Bay line where he slipped through the first tackle and raced away to score. Just moments later, Michael Stringer finished off an outstanding team try which featured excellent attacking kicks from Pitman-Joass and Parker. Stringer, who was following up play, showed a clean pair of heels to chase the final kick, retrieve the ball and place down just before the dead ball line to score. This gave Buller a commanding 22-3 lead.

Poverty Bay needed to be the next to score and they duly obliged. They were rewarded with a 5-metre scrum which had become their best attacking weapon of the afternoon. From the solid foundation, halfback Mario Counsell found a nice gap for Mitchell Purvis to run into and the big second-five eight barged his way over to score and close the gap to 22-10.

The final 5 minutes of the half saw both teams have opportunities with the ball inside their opposing team’s half. Poverty Bay was unable to capitalise as their continuity continued to be stifled by some excellent defence led by Kaloudigibeci and openside Jamie Tinetti. Buller had no such trouble in their attack and landed a crucial blow before halftime when Iliesa Tora scored a try after he found himself with the ball just 5 metres from the line. The big powerful winger bumped of two defenders to score after centre Michael Stringer had put Buller in a great attacking position with a great run beating multiple defenders. Parker knocked over the conversion and Buller had a commanding 29-10 lead at halftime.

In the second half, Buller continued their dominance and shut the door early on Poverty Bay by scoring inside the first two minutes. Again, Buller looked strong in their attack from phase play and it was the locking pairing who did the damage as Lewaqai made a nice break through the middle of the field before partner Stephens found space on the left edge to beat defenders and score a great try under the posts.

Despite the scrum working well for Poverty Bay, they were having issues at lineout time which was challenging their ability to retain the ball. They did manage to be the next team to score however as a kick down the middle of the field from Buller landed in the hands of their impressive fullback Moses Christie who made a clean line break to set up centre Ted Walter who cruised his way over to close the scoreline to 36-15.

At this point, with 30 minutes still remaining, there was a slim chance for the visitors to get back into the match. Coach Miah Nikora had cleared his bench early and their reserve players were making a strong impact. Any chance of that comeback was shut down however when Buller player of the match Stringer produced one of the great individual tries of the season. The centre three quarter received the ball from his own 22m line and used his pace, agility and strong fend to brush away defenders coming at him from all angles to complete a wonderful try, much to the delight of the local crowd who were all on their feet applauding a wonderful solo effort.

Inside the final 10 minutes both teams were able to finish with a try as firstly, Buller scored when Kaloudigibeci picked up a brace of tries for the afternoon. Attacking inside the visitor’s half, Parker saw space on the right wingers touch line and put in a lovely pinpoint cross kick to find Kaloudigibeci who did the rest. The final scoring act was by replacement hooker Jordon McFarlane for Poverty Bay when he showed some excellent speed off the mark to breach the Buller defence and scamper away to score. This closed the day’s scoring at 48-20 to Buller who were dominant throughout the afternoon and thoroughly deserved their victory.

Buller had plenty of shining lights and none more so than Stringer who beat a staggering 11 defenders with his 8 carries for the afternoon. Tinetti was yet again like a self-describing “starving dog”, recording a whopping 31 tackles and winning 5 turnovers. Kyle Te Tai who had replaced injured number 8 Greg Foe inside the opening quarter was excellent with his 60 minutes on the park, getting involved in anything that came his way. The backline drivers Parker and Pitman-Joass were pivotal in the control of the game while Brett Cutbush at halfback can be pleased with his first start in a Buller jersey. Plenty of damage for Poverty Bay was achieved by the Fijian trio of Lewaqai, Tora and Kaloudigibeci. All three, who have each recorded over 50 games for Buller, are loving their time together on the park and can be mightily proud of their effort. The Buller bench all received valuable minutes and Alan Paterson was rewarded with his first-class debut, becoming Buller representative number 1059.

Buller captain Anthony Ellis said he was “bloody proud of the way we responded this week. We were taught a tough lesson down in Oamaru last weekend but in many ways, this galvanised our group and I thought our effort was spot on today”.

Buller now prepare for rivalry round when they take on the old foe West Coast in Greymouth this weekend. The game will be played at John Sturgeon Park at 2:30pm.

Players of the day:
3-points Michael Stringer, 2-points Kyle Te Tai, 1-point Tapi Allen