Nobody know better than Wanganui what it takes to win the Meads Cup and the defending champions made it three in a row when beating Horowhenua Kapiti 30-14 in Levin on Saturday.
It was their sixth win of the trophy since it was first awarded in 2006, and their 10th final and even qualifying fourth did not prove a hurdle.
Conditions were perfect in front of a big home crowd but local expectations were rocked when the visitors returned the favour Horowhenua Kapiti had done when they went to Wanganui and won the old third division title in 1993.
Wanganui halfback Lindsay Horrocks said it had been ‘a massive effort’ because Horowhenua Kapiti had been the form team all year. They had West Coast to thank for gaining a win that allowed them to make the top fourth.
“It just showed the heart in the team, we kept believing even if we were behind,” he told Sky Sport.
Wanganui produced the first settled piece of play in the sixth minute from a midfield scrum when first five-eighths Dane Whale worked a move which created space for blindside wing Cameron Crowley, who was one of the key contributors on the day, and he connected with centre Kaveni Dabenaise who was untroubled to run in for the opening try.
Both sides had issues with their goal-kicking, Wanganui missing three first-half chances, two to Craig Clare and one to Nick Harding while James So’oialo missed one for the home team.
Horowhenua Kapiti started the second half poorly when conceding a penalty whilch Clare goaled but pressure on the Wanganui rearguard resulting firstly in a 49th minute penalty goal to So’oialo to get the score back to 6-13.
But from the restart the home team stormed onto loose ball with replacement loose halfback Kane Tamou leading the way and when So’oialo unleashed a long kick downfield, Wanganui wing Simon Dibben was bundled into touch. That allowed No.8 Tyson Maki to rumble around the lineout, but the chance was lost when the ball was lost in front of the Wanganui goalposts.
However, the Horowhenua Kapiti scrum unleashed a powerful shove to secure a penalty which So’oialo landed.
But failing to secure the restart, when Maki dropped the ball, proved costly.
From the scrum Crowley was into the backline from the blind again, this time floating onto a perfectly-weighted pass to take the ball to just short of the line. From the quick ruck ball, Horrocks threw a long pass to Harding who completed the transfer to replacement wing Samu Kubunavanua to score a try moments after having taken the field.
Wanganui tied the game up after key Horowhenua Kapiti mistakes both made by So’oialo who had a kick charged down moments after Kubunavanua had to leave the field after a head clash. But from a penalty awarded in the subsequent play, So’oialo failed to find touch and when Wanganui brought the ball back Whale ran blind to link with Dabenaise took the outside gap at speed and gave Crowley the run-in for the try.
Horowhenua Kapiti struck back immediately in the 70th minute when lineout ball was moved for second five-eighths Kalim Kelemete to hit the line at full speed to do his own outside break to provide fullback Andrew McDougall, who had been a threat all game, with the chance to score.
However, it was a limited response as Wanganui maintained the pressure to seasl the win.
Horowhenua-Kapiti 14 v 30 Steelform Wanganui
Horowhenua Kapiti Scorers:
Try : Andrew McDougall (69′)
Penalty: James So’oialo (34′,50′,55′)
Tries: Kaveni Dabenaise (6′), Samu Kubunavanua (56′), Cameron Crowley (68′)
Conversion: Craig Clare (8′), Nick Harding (57′,69′)
Penalty: Craig Clare (36′, 41′)
Drop Goals: Dane Whale (78′)
Cole Baldwin (c)