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Time To To Step Up Says Wanganui Coach

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Time To To Step Up Says Wanganui Coach

By Daniel Gilhooly of NZPA

Wellington, Nov 1 NZPA - It's time for Wanganui to jump into a bigger rugby pond, according to their successful coach Guy Lennox.

Wanganui were crowned Heartland rugby champions for a second straight season after storming home to beat Mid Canterbury 34-13 in the Meads Cup final in Christchurch yesterday.

Lennox called for Wanganui administrators and players to embrace the chance to "step outside our comfort zone" by being promoted to the division one competition proposed for next year.

Two Heartland sides will make the step up -- presuming the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) goes ahead with its restructure of the Air NZ Cup, with four teams from that competition demoted to a six-team middle tier.

It is hard to imagine Wanganui being overlooked although finances and the desire of the union will play a role in whether they are promoted.

"Whether it happens is another thing but I'd really like Wanganui to be involved," Lennox told NZPA.

"We've made the Heartland final for the last four years and won the last two so personally I think it's time to step outside our comfort zone and have a crack at the next level."

Lennox said it was obvious the two Heartland sides would struggle to match teams coming down from a professional level but hoped immersion would gradually take place.

"It's a natural progression. The level you play at, you adapt to," he said.

Some Wanganui players had been approached by Air NZ Cup unions and Lennox said it was hard to know what advice to give them.

"We're always encouraging them to move on but if we're going to be at the next level, we obviously want to hold people like that. What do we say to them at the moment? It's bloody difficult," he said.

"We've got a bit of young talent here but the players are wondering what the hell they're doing next year."

Lennox said he won't return as coach if Wanganui remain a Heartland championship team next year but a promotion would be the carrot to keep him in board.

His team had to work harder to claim this season's title, losing twice following an unbeaten 2008 campaign.

Things looked grim when they trailed top qualifiers Mid Canterbury 13-0 at Christchurch's Rugby Park yesterday but a key halftime message sparked Wanganui's running game into action.

"We were just playing substandard rugby and our lips were on the ground. We just said `go out and have some fun'," Lennox said.

"If we play that sort of rugby we'll beat anyone but we weren't doing it in the first 40."

The result was four second-half tries, running in 24 unanswered points in the first 25 minutes of the second half.

A dropped goal from first five-eighth Leon Mason followed by a converted try to substitute Vance Pereka put the icing on the cake.

Hosting a final for the first time, but forced north after their Ashburton Showgrounds venue was booked out, Mid Canterbury dominated the first half but couldn't push on to repeat the 23-14 win when the teams met three weeks ago.

Earlier yesterday, North Otago wrapped up the Lochore Cup title with a 21-13 defeat of West Coast in Greymouth.

Chasing a maiden divisional rugby title, West Coast spent the bulk of the game chasing and trailed 10-0 at halftime.


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