Superb bowling efforts from Bryn Templeman and Tim Richards kept Manawatu in the box seat for a Hawke Cup challenge as they beat Wanganui by an innings and 62 runs at the weekend.
It is Manawatu's fourth outright win this season and, barring some unlikely results in the final round on January 25 and 26, they will get a Hawke Cup challenge again.
Manawatu scored 362 for 9 declared at Fitzherbert Park, before Templeman took 5-54 in the first innings to dismiss Wanganui for 177. Richards then picked up 6-53 to roll them for 123 following on.
Even though it will be hard for Taranaki, who Manawatu will play in the final round, or Hawke's Bay to catch Manawatu, the Old Boys pair wouldn't say the challenge is a done deal yet.
The 6-53 is Richards' best figures for the rep team and gets his name on the honours board in the pavilion.
"Really happy - I didn't expect that," he said afterwards.
Richards said it was a pretty flat pitch but even though it wasn't easy, there was still a bit to assist the medium pacer.
Templeman has been injured lately, so it was a pleasing return to form. "I haven't played since my last club game in November," he said. "My first over was a bit rusty - I went for 10."
But he warmed into his work and got the Wanganui batsmen playing, and just waited for them to make a mistake.
Earlier, Manawatu's big total came off the back of half-centuries from Dane Cleaver (79), Roald Badenhorst (71) and Richards (69 not out), while debutant Cameron Rowe scored 45.
Sam O'Leary took 3-94 for Wanganui.
Wanganui were 64 for 3 at the end of the first day, with John McIlraith not out on 34 and Mark Fraser unbeaten on 2.
But they were dismissed on the second day for 177, with McIlraith going on to 39 and Brendon Walker top scoring with 43.
They were put back in and folded again for 123, with the Wanganui tail again scoring runs to make the score a bit more flattering.
O'Leary top scored with 30 batting at No 11, and Walker scored 28 at No 9.
Both teams had players away at the Central Districts age group tournament this week.
- Manawatu Standard
How will the Hurricanes do in 2015?Related story: Supporting players light up Hurricanes bright start to Super Rugby season