All Blacks great Ma’a Nonu has extended his stint with Ngati Porou East Coast by making a second appearance for the provincial side in the Heartland Championship on Saturday.
A week after he made headlines for making a surprise return to New Zealand rugby by helping East Coast break their 54-match, eight-year winless streak, the 39-year-old agreed to play for the minnow outfit for a second week running.
However, Nonu and East Coast couldn’t extend their success following last Saturday’s 50-26 victory over Buller in Ruatoria as they fell short 39-34 at the hands of West Coast in Greymouth.
As was the case last week, Nonu started from the bench alongside former All Blacks wing and East Coast assistant coach Hosea Gear and ex-Manu Samoa loose forward Faifili Levave.
All three players entered the match in the 57th minute, by which point their side was down 29-22. East Coast had previously held a 22-8 lead after the half hour mark thanks to tries from lock Gabe Te Kani, No 8 Will Bollingford and wing Teina Potae.
However, West Coast pulled level on the stroke of half-time through lock Sam Liebezeit and flanker Steven Soper, which came after an earlier try to wing Jacob Lowe.
A further try early in the first half to fullback Anthony Tailua, and the following conversion by centre Sam McClure edged the hosts into the lead.
A try and conversion to East Coast first-five Te Rangi Fraser put the visitors on level terms shortly after the introductions of Nonu, Gear and Levave, but McClure’s 70th minute penalty put West Coast back in front by three points.
East Coast gained the advantage just five minutes from full-time via an unconverted try to wing Te Wehi Wright, but West Coast stole the match at the death when second-five Joseph Scott dotted down with less than two minutes on the clock.
McClure’s conversion putt he icing on the cake as West Coast lifted themselves to eighth on the Heartland Championship table, but the presence of Nonu, as well as Gear and Levave, would have certainly been the talking point at John Sturgeon Park.
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