Crafar Crouch Waitohi continued on their winning way during an abbreviated round of Bayleys Tasman Trophy premier rugby on Saturday.
The unbeaten Picton side accounted for Kahurangi 36-24, but had to withstand a late fright at Endeavour Park.
The news wasn't so good for the other Marlborough sides in action. Kirk Nicholas Builders Renwick took a 7-93 hammering at home from Wanderers, BNZ Partners Harlequins were beaten 19-51 by Waimea OB at Jubilee Park and a depleted Moutere side lost 5-72 to Marist at Trafalgar Park.
Both Central and Awatere picked up five points, being defaulted to by Nelson and Stoke respectively, who were unable to field teams on Saturday.
Waitohi 36 Kahurangi 24
As Waitohi look back on their eighth consecutive win in the Tasman Trophy, they can thank a hugely dominant scrum for giving them the edge over a brave and committed Kahurangi outfit.
The impact of the home side's impressive set piece on the outcome of this match can be judged by the fact two of Waitohi's first three tries came from pushover scrums and this, coupled with a string of tightheads, often at critical stages, stymied Kahurangi's ability to attack from a reliable platform.
The Tohis were on the board after just four minutes, tighthead prop Ross Geldenhuys unstoppable on a close range charge to the line. Mike Hillgrove, replacing Jayden Waters in the 10 shirt, converted. Kahurangi tried to get their hands on the ball but the inevitable scrum pressure and handling errors meant they were unable to string phases together.
Midway through the half Waitohi forced a 5m scrum and rapidly shunted the Kahurangi eight over the line, only to be denied the try through a handling error. The reset, despite it being Kahurangi's ball, produced an action replay, this time No 8 Manu Mataele making no mistake as the home eight rumbled forward.
The visitors opened their account 10 minutes later. Their lively winger Stein Schreiber received the ball at halfway, chipped ahead and speculated the ball over the goalline, easily winning the race to touch down. First-five Mike Wells converted, reducing the home side's lead to five.
But Waitohi roared back, fleet-footed winger Naki Taliauli being held up over the line. The respite for Kahurangi was shortlived though, Mataele adding his second as the Tohis' scrum powered ahead from five metres.
But as halftime neared, the home side let their guard down. Dropped ball in midfield allowed Kahurangi a sniff of possession. Lively lock Caleb Wolfreys scooped up the crumbs and fed the flying Schreiber, who raced to the line. Wells' conversion meant Waitohi held just a three-point lead, a poor return from a half they had dominated.
Although Kahurangi began the second 40 with a period of concerted attack, the home side notched the next try. Again it was Geldenhuys who drove across the line from a series of pick and goes. Hillgrove converted to restore his side's 10 point advantage at 24-14.
The home side extended their lead to 29-14 when hooker Chris Goodyer dotted down after 25 minutes, then went to sleep, shelving their game as Kahurangi roared back into the picture over the final 10 minutes.
A brilliant counterattacking try, set up by Schreiber and finished by centre Hana Corbett-Burrows from 40m, started the comeback. It was quickly converted by fullback Andrew Knewstubb, followed by a 40m penalty from Wells, and suddenly the home side was under pressure. Coach Tonga Taumoefolau went to his bench at various stages of the second spell, hoping to inject more energy into his side, and fittingly it was one of those replacements, prop James Hounslow who replaced Geldenhuys, who put the matter beyond doubt. After a hooked tighthead by replacement hooker Bradley Hide, the Tohis got their pick-and-goes working, Hounslow being irresistible close to the line. Midfielder Sanualio Sakalia booted over the conversion and the Tohis fans breathed again.
Despite missing some key players up front, Kahurangi came to play. Their loose forward trio of Kane McLeod, Dan Crowther and Ziggy Tu'ua were an ever-present menace at the breakdown while Makos man Mike Wells guided his team around expertly, despite often getting backfoot ball. Out wide they always looked menacing, especially through Brad Tunnicliffe, Schreiber, Corbett-Burrows and Knewstubb.
Waitohi coach Taumoefolau was happy with his side's structured play in the first 30 minutes but not so impressed with the final 20.
"We made it hard on ourselves. I was getting a bit nervous towards the end," he admitted. "We made plenty of subs, which we had to do. We've got to test our depth and I think it showed that we have some depth. We didn't make subs because we thought we had it in the bag . . . we did it because we need guys to get game time leading into the right end of the season."
"They had us under the hammer, especially going wide. We looked a little lethargic after not training this week. But that's no excuse. I'm happy with the score in the end, but the whole thing was paved up front.
"Manu [Mataele] was outstanding for us ... he's found the form he had in the first round. His running metres were through the roof today."
Also of note was the premier debut of referee Vaughan Warburton, who made a good fist of handling his first match at this level.
Wanderers 93 Renwick 7
After being upset by Central last week, Wanderers quickly regained momentum with a 15-try demolition of Renwick.
Although the scoreline suggested a bad day for the home side, coach Tony Katting was a much happier man this week, having a full bench of substitutes to call on after last week being left with just one reserve. "We did get whacked again," said Katting, "and the guys on the bench had already played 80 minutes so they didn't make a lot of impact off the bench - but what it has done for the club is huge. We had 15 guys from the div one side join us at practice during the week. Everything is back on track. We are now united."
Katting was also full of praise for a "very good Wanderers side" who led 43-0 at halftime. Standouts for the home side were dynamic Hayden Marfell who "tackled his heart out", tryscorer Adam Broadbridge who came on at halfback after having already played 80 minutes, and livewire hooker Dave MacDonald.
Wanderers manager Frazer Lochead said it was a total team effort but singled out No 8 Tone Ng Shiu for special mention. His work off the back of the scrum and strong ball-carrying ability were central to much of Wanderers' attack. Prop Mike Lattin also stood out, as did flanker Willie Hamilton, a regular player in the club's B side, who Lochead described as "outstanding".
The Wanderers camp also found time to get their main sponsor, Charlie Taylor who owns Taylors Contracting, on to the field. The 40-something prop, who attends every training and match, made a 10-minute cameo appearance near the end of the match.
WOB 51 Harlequins 19
Waimea clearly had the firepower but often lacked the execution, despite putting eight tries on Harlequins at Jubilee Park.
Harlequins showed their competitive streak, including a pacey attack when given width. However, Waimea also helped keep them in the game as frustrating turnovers and a wealth of second half penalties contributed to an often scrappy encounter. Waimea had plenty of strikepower with Jerome Vaai, Jeff Lepa, Ben Coman, Tevita Cavubati and Pete Samu prominent in the forward exchanges and Tevita Tui, Joe Mika and Sam Franklin frequently stretching the defences further out. They created numerous scoring opportunities, with two quick tries to centre Ben Jeffrey and then to lock Ben Coman within two minutes of each other late in the second half hinting at what Waimea might have achieved with a more clinical approach.
Harlequins' No 10 Brandyn Laursen had opened the try-scoring with a gifted 30m intercept after just 11 minutes, before tries to Cavubati, Vaai and finally to Samu helped to round out Waimea's 20-7 halftime lead. Vaai would add his second try after the break as further tries to Franklin, Jeffrey, lock Ben Coman and finally to No 10 Connor Trathen ensured any Harlequins' resistance was quickly absorbed.
No 8 Fetu Ieremia had a strong game for Harlequins, with Laursen showing good pace to add a second half try from around 50m out after substitute prop Shaun Murray had crossed earlier in the half.
Marist 72 Moutere 5
Marist didn't waste the opportunity provided by an under-manned Moutere side to eventually run in 11 tries at Trafalgar Park.
Moutere had arrived in town with only 14 players, forcing their assistant coach Dave McCormick to start on the wing. Marist weren't interested in Moutere's problems though, turning the screws very early in another convincing team performance.
Marist scored five first-half tries through Shaun Begg, Liam Boshoff, Patrick McDougall and two to Callum Taylor as they took a commanding 34-0 lead into the break.
Moutere would break Marist's scoring monopoly soon after the restart with a try to lock Josh Sutherland, then it was back to business as usual as Marist ran in a further six tries to Tyler McKinnon-Stevenson, Jack Halpin, Jackson Harvey, Lote Saulekaleka and the final two to flanker Dan Hytongue. Fullback Harvey ended the match with 22 points to extend his season's tally to 169. Moutere flanker Mike Curry proved competitive at the breakdowns, forcing several turnovers, although Moutere could not fully capitalise.
The eighth round was marred by defaults from Nelson and Stoke who, for various reasons, were unable to raise teams for their trips over the hill.
Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis said he was "extremely disappointed those game were defaulted", but noted there were extenuating circumstances.
"Nelson could not field a team today. They had significant injuries in first grade, I think it was nine players out, and significant injuries in second grade, plus seven of their players in second grade had gone to the test match. To illustrate how poor they were in second grade, they got beaten 37-10 by Collingwood," explained Lewis.
"Stoke have been struggling all year for props. The eight different props they have had all year were not available, mainly through injury. Awatere offered to lend them a prop and [Stoke] spent all day yesterday trying to find another prop. They couldn't find a prop so they also defaulted.
"From a TRU perspective it's bloody disappointing. But there is also a number of things that we have to take into consideration.
"Each of the two clubs that defaulted, they did not have enough props for first and second grade and they didn't have props that were of the calibre to play first grade.
"Although we are frustrated and annoyed we have to work with the clubs. The Marlborough clubs have worked with me from a Tuesday onward to make sure that they could fulfil their obligations in Tasman Trophy and they are to be congratulated, and Stoke have worked tirelessly throughout the year to make sure they can field a team and they were devastated not to be able to.
"And Nelson just had an incredible run of injuries ... it's frustrating but it probably gives us an opportunity. We are at the moment in the middle of a review of senior rugby in Tasman. On that review group is myself, Charlie Taylor from Wanderers and Robin Beattie from Waitohi."
One of the issues the group is concentrating on is the situation where premier and B teams are often drawn to play a long way apart, sometimes the top side playing in Nelson and their second team in Blenheim.
"In that case, the resources of the club are stretched and we have to look at how we can make that work," said Lewis.
"We appreciate 100 per cent the support that the Marlborough teams have given the competition and we are devastated that the two Nelson teams pulled out, but both have pulled out for legitimate reasons. Nelson were prepared to play the game on any other day but his Saturday. They felt they could get a team together. But Central saw fit not to take that opportunity, which is their prerogative."
Lewis made special mention of the efforts that Moutere made on Saturday to field a team against Marist, describing it as "sensational ... a top-drawer" effort.
- The Marlborough Express