West Snares Historic Win Over East In Golden Point Thriller
Both teams had a lot to play for in the revived East v West game – the first since 2011.
The East had won each of the previous four match-ups and with five players from the premier champion Linwood Keas in the squad, the side was looking sharp.
However, it was the West who scored first through Ben Ilalio (Halswell) in the opening stages and a penalty count going against the East meant Robbie Faalilo’s side stayed down the correct end of the field.
With a try beckoning, a dropped ball in the in-goal area was the break the East needed, taking the opportunity to make their way from one end of the track to the other and score a powerful try through Aranui’s TJ Jackson.
Another breakaway from the East looked like a sure try before a key pass was intercepted, saving another four-pointer in the corner. The West used their counterattack and superior fitness to get back to the right end of the field and score through Will Tafua, one of nine players from the Hornby Panthers.
At the half the East trailed 10-4 and coach Steve Fenika had a strong message for his team: complete the tackles, clean up the errors and stop giving away penalties. The message from West coach Faalilo was simple, ‘control the middle and we control the game.’
This would prove difficult as the legs tired and the West lost two players to injury early on. The middle wasn’t controlled and shortly into the second half a break right through the centre of the pitch allowed Feleti Amosa (Aranui) to strike first for the East.
Ben Ilalio (Halswell) scored his second of the match to put the West back in front 14-10 after 12 minutes of the second stanza before Shirley Hawks’ Jayson Sila answered back, and a successful conversion by Joseph Mika gave the East their first lead of the game.
The West wouldn’t give in and had their first-ever victory against the East in their sights. Winger Charlie Charlie (Hornby) was too fast to be caught and scored a well-executed try in the corner, putting his West side back in front. A successful conversion gave a four-point buffer with 10 minutes to play and the West were within reach of the elusive victory.
The East trudged up the field off the back of a West turnover, and Graeme Patu Vaega’au (Linwood) was able to answer back and lock up the game at 20 each.
With two minutes left in the game the East missed a penalty goal attempt just to the right of the uprights to keep scores at 20-20 – sending the game into golden point extra time.
As the teams tired from playing almost 90 minutes of league, there were opportunities from both sides to take shots at field goal, but they were unable to make them count.
The West rallied and with 20 seconds left in extra-time, from a fortuitous behind the back pass on the fifth tackle, Kyle Pauro, who was a last-minute call up, scored a scintillating outstretched diving try to secure the West’s maiden win against the East and reignite an old rivalry.
West coach Robbie Faalilo was really stoked his team could rally together and step up despite a couple of early injuries. Faalilo gave a lot of credit to each of the clubs and the calibre of players right across the competition.
“It was a great opportunity to showcase the sport in Canterbury and we’re looking forward to defending the shield next year,” Faalilo said.
From here a Barbarians side will be selected to play a pre-season game against the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls next Saturday, September 2nd.
Final score: East 20 – West 24