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In the end it was all too easy as Buller sucked up all the pressure East Coast could apply in the first half then ran away with the match in the second half as the East Coast team tired and began to drop their heads as Buller piled on the points.
With a stiff breeze behind them in the first half East Coast had a monopoly of possession and territory but were unable to turn it into points in the face of some resolute Buller defence. Indeed, it was only a single out of character lapse which allowed East Coast to score when fullback Te Rangi Fraser, who was easily East Coast's best attacking back, shrugged off some weak tackles to score in the corner.
In a rare break into East Coast territory, Buller retaliated with a try to Scott Neighbours after Pene Nabainavalu made a break up to the East Coast line and, when he was tackled after chipping ahead, Neighbours won the race to the ball to make the half time score 7-5.
East Coast would have been disappointed at not having turned possession into points, especially when Buller showed just how to use the wind in the second spell, keeping East Coast pinned in their own half, and rattling on three tries in quick succession as mid-filed backs Nabainavalu, William Saukuru and Michael Leava'a found gap after gap in the defence and forced East Coast on to constant scrambling defence.
Tries to Nabainavalu, Leava'a, and Ileasi Ravudra gave Buller an unassailable lead and all East Coast could do was try to keep the score within bounds. The visitors did score a consolation try as Buller slackened off with the game won, with lock Ricky Waitoa crossing in the last play of the game.
For Buller, the win was an ideal way to celebrate flanker Luke Brownlee's 150th consecutive match for Buller and, as always, he turned in an outstanding performance in a pack which out-muscled the much heavier East Coast forwards. Buller was totally dominant in the set pieces, with Logan Mundy outstanding.
During the match a number of the East Coast team had to be re-shuffled due to injury and Brent Ingram played a totally committed game.
Buller coach Craig Scanlon was more than happy with his team's bonus point win. He praised his team's defensive effort in the first half when pinned in their own territory for so long and felt that this sucked the heart out of East Coast who were perhaps a little disheartened by their inability to turn possession into points and who were found wanting for fitness as Buller piled on the pressure in the second half.
He felt the key factor was a dominant forward performance and that Buller's tactical approach to thr match played dividends.
East Coast manager Gary Harding said his team knew they were in for a torrid struggle against a team which was notoriously difficult to beat on their home ground but praised his players for keeping going in a hard running game of open rugby. He felt that Everard Reid and Brent Ingram were the outstanding players for his side, especially when they had to switch positions due to injury.
- By Norman Crawshaw
Buller 28 (Scott Neighbours, Pene Nabainavalu, William Saukuru, Mike Leava'a tries; Jesse Elley 2 pens, con) East Coast 12 (Te Rangi Fraser, Ricky Waitoa tries; Sikeli Vorenasu con). HT: 5-7.