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Ellesmere Final - Coleman Shield Shared
The Lincoln and Waihora squads both expressed frustration with the competition rules following their 10-10 draw in the Coleman Shield final at Lincoln, Saturday 10th August.
As it stands in Ellesmere, when sides draw in a competition final the title is shared rather than seeing extra time played. “It’s an awful feeling coming off the field without a winner,” Lincoln captain Mike Bendall said. Waihora captain Mark Maitland concurred: “It feels like a kick in the stomach.” Lincoln co-coach Mike Rowe was also frustrated. “It’s a weird feeling. There is no sense of elation or disappointment. I just feel numb right now.” Waihora coach Brent Lewis said that he felt “flat”.
Ellesmere president Stu Boon said after the match that extra time may not have found a winner and that there had to be some method used in these situations. That said, each captain and coach was adamant that it would have been advisable to play extra time and, if a winner could not be found after that, the shield could be shared.
The ending in the final should not take away from what was a tremendous game played between two outstandingly-coached teams. This was country rugby at its finest although it was Lincoln that felt most disappointed at the end having dominated for large periods and only letting the match slip in the final seconds.
Lincoln had much the better of the first half: playing into the wind they scored the only try and with the departing Dale Eathorne outstanding with the boot (one conversion and a penalty) they were well worth their lead.
Yet a feature of Waihora’s season has been their tenuousness: their never-say-die attitude. For much of the second half they were under the pump as Lincoln used the wind to great effect. Lincoln were also dominant up front: their pack had an edge on Waihora’s and in the process they blunted the visitor’s talented halfback Heinrich Fourie.
Yet with a few seconds remaining Waihora attacked with desperation. They moved the ball wide and first five-eight Robbie Anderson found space. He passed to their best player Mark Maitland and, drawing the last defender, he passed back to Anderson to score a remarkable try.
Maitland stood up to take the conversion. Lincoln co-coach Greg Lewis (who had coached Maitland at Canterbury Country) knew that Maitland’s strength was punting and not static kicking. “I thought he could fluff this,” Lewis said after the match. Yet he didn’t. It wasn’t the prettiest kick and to some it looked like it missed but it did enough and Waihora had earned a share of the shield.
Waihora may not have deserved to win the final but they deserved enormous credit for their resilience. They never gave in. Lincoln were much better than they had been in the Centennial match earlier in the season against the same opponent but did not back themselves to continue moving the ball wide in the second half. Their caution might have in the end cost them an outright win.
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