Crafar Crouch Waitohi may have surrendered their unbeaten record to Waimea Old Boys in the final round of Bayleys Tasman Trophy play on Saturday, but their efforts helped Marlborough clubs claim a historic quinella.
Waitohi went down 13-7 to Waimea, but by denying their rivals a four-try bonus point, they enabled Biddy Kates Central, who overwhelmed Stoke 93-0, to claim second place on the final points table, behind the Picton side which wrapped up the title last weekend.
In the crossover trophy matches played on this side of the hill, both BNZ Partners Harlequins and Moutere faded late in their matches, going down 40-24 and 47-31 to Marist and Nelson, respectively.
Two derby matches were played, TvA Awatere coming out on top by a single point in a 10-try thriller against Kirk Nicholas Builders Renwick, while Kahurangi upset Wanderers 26-17.
Waimea Old Boys 13 Waitohi 7
Waimea Old Boys produced some blue collar graft to finally end Waitohi's unbeaten run at Jubilee Park. Ironically, Waimea's reward for being the only team to beat Waitohi this season was to slip from second to third on the points table behind Central, who they beat 80-38 much earlier in the season.
For the past six weeks, Waimea have used pace and width to outstrip opposition defences. But they were forced to roll up their sleeves on Saturday as any prospect of Waimea implementing their free-running game was quickly dispelled by a staunch Waitohi side determined to end its campaign on a high.
The intensity of the forward contest was matched by smothering defence by both teams right across the park, limiting each side to just one try.
Waimea led throughout, turning 10-0 following first use of a beneficial southwesterly wind after halfback Billy Guyton ran from a tap penalty close to the line to burrow across in the corner right on the break. Luca Roden's excellent sideline conversion complemented his earlier penalty success.
Waitohi's anticipated muscle-flexing at scrum time gave the visitors an edge as they also sought to utilise their obvious forward strength with the wind at their backs. Turning down goal kicking opportunities from penalties initially paid dividends when centre Filipo Ligaliga crashed over between the posts after 12 minutes of the second half to reduce Waimea's lead to 10-7. But Roden would provide the only remaining points of the half, capitalising on a promising forward incursion into Waitohi's quarter three minutes later with his second penalty success.
Waimea's forwards worked hard against a formidable Waitohi pack with Tevita Cavubati, Pete Samu, Jerome Vaai, Jeff Lepa and Ben Coman constantly trying to breach Waitohi's tough forward defence. Hooker Tom Williams also worked hard in the tight as loose forwards Manu Mataele, Vernon Fredericks and Les Ivamy and prop Ross Geldenhuys again laid the groundwork in a rugged Waitohi forward effort.
Central 93 Stoke 0
Stoke barely had time to draw breath as they were buried in an avalanche of points by a classy Central side at Greenmeadows.
Just one week after their stunning upset win over Marist, Stoke had no answer to Central's clinical precision as the visitors ran in 15 tries in a comprehensive team performance.
Centre Jake Cresswell and hooker Jesse MacDonald each scored twice, otherwise, the remaining tries were spread evenly among both backs and forwards. Stoke were forced to defend for virtually the entire contest, Central maintaining their structure throughout as the scoreline continued to mount. Jesse MacDonald and locks Riki Winitana and Dan van Waas excelled in Central's forward effort, with Quentin MacDonald adding plenty of impact off the bench at No 8. Central's man of the match, fullback Nick Malins, provided plenty of punch from the back as No 10 Jeremy Manning maintained admirable control.
Awatere 30 Renwick 29
This entertaining match, at Renwick Domain, pretty much epitomised Renwick's wretched season.
The home side scored five tries, led for the majority of the match and missed a last-minute penalty kick that would have earned them their first win of the year. The visitors trailed 24-13 at one stage but had the strikepower to find their way into the match, and ultimately prevail.
A David Pope penalty in the second minute, the only penalty goal of the match, gave Awatere the early lead, but Renwick replied seven minutes later when imposing lock Anaru Norton bullocked his way over after a quickly-taken tap kick.
With a strong crosswind, goalkicking was difficult, as was accurate lineout work, an area both sides struggled with.
Tussocks' first five Bryn Cotching was next on the scoreboard, after good build up work by loosehead prop Kurt Lindsay, but Renwick's frontrowers were also keen to be involved, Hayden Swain scoring a five-pointer after a series of pick and goes.
An interception and 60m run to the line by centre Kirk Nicholas gave the home a 17-8 lead and, although Awatere pressed hard leading into the break, opting for scrums instead of shots at goal from penalties, that remained the halftime score.
Prop Jack Best was the first scorer of the second 40, continuing the efforts of the big men up front by dotting down after 52 minutes. Immediately from the restart, a dropped ball allowed Renwick possession and No 8 Amco Cassidy picked up the first of his brace of tries, Hayden Howard's conversion giving the Green Machine an 11-point advantage.
It was shortlived though as Awatere swept straight back, rangy flanker Lui Finau running off quick rucked ball to dot down under the posts. David Pope's conversion reduced the deficit to four, but Cassidy's second touchdown, five minutes later, pushed the home side nine ahead.
Not to be outdone, Finau grabbed his second after more concerted pressure and again the margin was four.
The winning try came with four minutes on the clock. As Renwick tired Awatere mounted wave after wave of attack, helped by a succession of penalties, and eventually fullback Pope found space on the left to cross unopposed.
With just a point separating the sides Renwick worked their way into goalkicking range, but when the penalty came Howard, from 35m on the angle, was unable to find the target and Awatere had escaped by the skin of their teeth.
Halfback Ben Finau was again at the heart of the Tussocks' effort. His sniping runs setting up opportunities for the likes of Lindsay, Best, lock Jack Roberton and loosies Scott Morgan and Lui Finau to feed off. Centre Ben Filipo was strong on both attack and defence, while Cotching looked to take the line on and used the breeze intelligently.
Cassidy had a strong match for the home side. His ability to clear the ball from behind a retreating scrum and eye for the tryline apparent. Hayden Marfell led his side by example while former rep player Ryan Schollum added some experience and grit at halfback. Second-half replacement Phil Sterling added energy to the equation, while prop Milton Butler and loosie George Kenny were effective ball carriers and defenders.
Although Renwick showed plenty of determination and defensive grit on Saturday, they have a lot of work to do in the off season if they are to field a more competitive outfit next season.
Marist 40 Harlequins 24
They held a one-point advantage with 11 minutes to play, but Harlequins were unable to resist a late 17-point surge by the visitors from Nelson.
In a see-sawing encounter, where neither side was able to assert any dominance until the latter stages, an early penalty to Marist was soon cancelled out by a try in the corner to Quins centre George Millar, before Marist bagged another penalty and a first-half five-pointer. A late penalty to first-five Brandyn Laursen reduced the deficit as the visitors took an 11-8 advantage into the halftime break.
A try to Millar's midfield partner, Chris Tau'alupe, after a strong team buildup pushed the Quins ahead 13-11 but three minutes later a converted try had Marist back on top. Two penalties from the accurate boot of Laursen gave the home supporters hope, before Marist added their third try midway through the half. A fourth penalty to Laursen edged Quins in front 24-23 as the clock ticked down, but that was to be the extent of the scoring for the home side as Marist assumed control.
As Harlequins faded, Marist, boosted by their bench players such as double try scorer Misa Tabua who entered the fray in the second 40 at No 8, lifted their game and rattled up 17 unanswered points in the final six minutes.
Player of the day for the Quins was lock Michael Tuipolotu, the former Marlborough Boys' College first XV star showing his allround skills, especially at lineout time.
Chris Tau'alupe and his brother, Willie, who came off the bench, were standouts in the backline.
Best of a Marist side who came good at the business end of the match were imposing prop Reuben Northover, playmaker Shaun Begg and dynamic loosie Dan Hytongue. The Marist scrum, anchored by old stager Gavin Briggs, held a distinct edge at set piece time, especially in the first half.
Nelson 47 Moutere 31
Playing with the advantage of a strong wind, the Magpies held a handy 26-14 lead at halftime, but, like the Quins, were unable to sustain their advantage, conceding 21 second half points while just scoring a single try in reply.
Star of the show for Nelson was elusive fullback Ben Tyler, a former Brumbies B player, who scored a hat-trick of tries.
His feat was matched by Moutere No 8 Nili Moala who has improved with every match since moving south towards the end of the club season.
The Magpies had racked up a four-try bonus point by halftime and looked well on their way to marking their final match of the season with an upset victory. Two tries to Moala, one to halfback Johnny Ika and one to Wavell Te Tai in the first spell saw the home side forge a 12-point lead at the break but an incident five minutes into the second half turned the game on its head. Ika, who had been lively behind the Magpies pack all day, was sent from the field for an alleged spear tackle by referee Vaughan Warburton.
Although Moala added his third try after 55 minutes it was the final piece of good news for the home supporters, with the visitors adding five more tries, four of which were converted by second five David Havili, the New Zealand under 20 utility becoming more influential as the match wore on.
Moutere coach Laurin Gane said his side had finished the season with pride but the second half "was a bit of a battle, especially with 14 men".
"Havili ran the cutter at second five and when they spun the ball wide we just couldn't contain them," Gane said.
"Nili [Moala] had a blinder, he caused havoc out there today. Francis [Smith] was outstanding with the ball in hand and Josh Sutherland just gets better and better. Noah Taio at centre also had a good game, he pulled off some pretty big tackles."
While Tyler demonstrated the skills at fullback that may see him one day don a Makos jersey, dual tryscorers Christian Tupuloa and Jacob Moore also had a big say in proceedings, as did lock Dan Climo.
Kahurangi 26 Wanderers 17
Kahurangi needed a bonus-point win against the pace-setting Nelson Bays' club side and they achieved it with a four tries to two victory at Riwaka to set up a rematch in next Saturday's Nelson playoffs.
Wanderers will have the home team edge at Brightwater next time, but Kahurangi kept their hopes alive with a gritty performance. Wanderers had led 10-7 at halftime after Wanderers halfback Dwayne Polataivao and Kahurangi midfielder Kenny Eggers had traded first half tries. Wanderers would add only one further try, to centre Fletcher Matthews, to take a 17-14 lead into the dying stages after an earlier try to Kahurangi wing Stein Schreiber. But late counter attacking tries to Schreiber and fullback Andrew Knewstubb would eventually get Kahurangi across the line.
Next weekend attention turns to the Marlborough club semifinals with Waitohi meeting Awatere and Central matching up against Harlequins.
- The Marlborough Express