Nelson sides in control
Waitohi flew Marlborough's rugby flag proudest in the opening round of matches in the Bayley's Tasman Trophy combined Marlborough/Nelson premier club rugby competition, a day almost entirely dominated by the Nelson teams.
The Tohis beat Stoke 21-10 in a cliffhanger at Picton, BNZ Harlequins lost 24-15 to Enza Riwaka at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim, Moutere lost 36-40 to Huia at Awarua Park in a highly entertaining clash while Central couldn't match the class of Nelson at Trafalgar Park, beaten 41-20.
Awatere paid the price of having just two subs as Wanderers ran away with their match in Nelson 44-15 over the closing stages.
RIWAKA 24 HARLEQUINS 15
Harlequins have now lost two on the trot and on Saturday were very fortunate the scoreline did not blow out.
Playing with a brisk breeze at their back, Harlequins hardly fired a shot during a limp performance. Led by a feisty forward pack with No8 Lucuster Mati and lock Ben Sadrugu prominent, Riwaka camped most of the half in Quins territory and blew at least four or five try-scoring opportunities.
Riwaka's first try, to centre Matt Sandlant, came from a sheer weight of possession and their second try was the result of more sustained forward pressure and the finishing power of Matai. First-five Paul Burton was a classy operator, particularly dangerous with ball in hand.
To their credit, Harlequins played much better in the second half, prop Tim Perry a standout with ball in hand and hooker and skipper Simon Muir leading by example. Hayden Cripps played only the second half because of a foot injury and made a significant difference with his tactical play. But overall the Quins could not be happy with that performance against one of Nelson's lesser teams.
WAKATU MARIST 57 RENWICK 12
Renwick stayed with Wakatu Marist for 40 minutes, trailing 5-15 at the break, but had no answer in the second half to the visitors' power and precision up front when they changed tactics.
Winger Jade Bevan capped off a player of the day performance for the Green Machine with their first half try and midfielder Rikki Winitana scored a second half try. But despite a gutsy effort, the home side were simply out-gunned by a bigger aggressive pack and a couple of very sharp backline performers in second-five Kieron Fonotia and fullback Latham Jones. Fonotia defended powerfully, broke the line on regular occasions and scored 20 points from two tries and five conversions.
Openside flanker Gary Redmond shone in Wakatu Marist's impressive forward effort, which despite battling gamely, Renwick were unable to match. Best of the Renwick side were Bevan, fullback Bejay Bampton and flanker Beaufa Brown.
HUIA 40 MOUTERE 36
It's not often a losing coach comes away from a match happy but Moutere's Laurin Gane was because, for the bottom placed team in the Marlborough competition, this was by far their best performance to date.
Moutere's forwards held the upper hand for most of the game with hooker Kaleb Avery, flanker James Pigou and experienced lock Stu Campbell leading the charge, Avery capping off a player of the day performance with two tries.
In fact only a dropped pass off the last play of the match prevented Moutere winning. The difference in the end was Huia's backline class and their ability to create opportunities from broken play, three poor tactical kicks by Moutere leading to tries each time. On numerous occasions the Moutere forwards drove Huia back several metres but in the end it wasn't quite enough.
Midfielders Jake Cresswell and Benji Keenan were the pick of a Moutere backline generally out-shone by their slick opposites. Impressive for Huia was fullback and man of the match Tema Faifua with a hat trick of tries.
NELSON 41 CENTRAL 20
Nelson made it tougher than necessary in beating Central at Trafalgar Park.
Nelson eventually outscored Central by six tries to three in their feature pool A clash, despite squandering a wealth of ball.
Nelson's backs were the difference between the two sides as second five-eighth Andrew Goodman, centre Kim Bateman, winger Mitchell Scott and fullback Robbie Malneek frequently punched holes in Central's defence.
Scott finished with two tries and Malneek one as Nelson always managed to stay just out of reach after Central's forwards continued to test the home team's defensive resilience. Winger Sam McMillan, flanker Mitchell Thwaites and prop Dylan Turnbull completed Nelson's tryscoring.
No8 Kaleni Taesuli and lock Brian Utumapu were Central's principle ball carriers in an organised and committed pack, Taelusi eventually crashing across to cut Nelson's lead to 22-13 at the break. Central's backs were well contained, apart from a well-conceived first half try to winger Anton Tuimala who also scored Central's only second-half try.
Nelson wasted numerous opportunities through poor ball control, Central simply lacking the penetration to fully capitalise.
Shane Christie, Shane Grieve, Thwaites and Christian Tupuola impressed in Nelson's forward effort, although Nelson's scrum came under some late pressure.
WAITOHI 21 STOKE 10
A strong second half performance propelled Waitohi to a handy pool A win in Picton after the score had been locked at 3-3 at the break.
Inspirational lock Daniel Karena and winger Eugene Taylor contributed Waitohi's second half tries, Karena also playing a key role in a unified Waitohi forward effort. Otherwise, experienced first five-eighth Dan Hawkins used his organisational skills and accurate boot to help keep the home team ahead in the second half, Hawkins eventually finishing with three penalties and a conversion in an impressive display.
No8-lock Manu Mataele was another strong performer in Waitohi's forward effort.
Hooker Craig Groome scored Stoke's second half try, first five-eighth Jake Beleski adding the conversion to his first half penalty success. Jarrod Aberhart returned from recent illness to play a prominent role at No8 while flanker Tevita Koloamatangi continued his impressive run of form with another strong display.
WANDERERS 45 AWATERE 15
Wanderers overcame a fiery opening onslaught before eventually easing to a comfortable 45-15 pool B win over Awatere at Brightwater.
Wanderers' indiscipline and Awatere's determined approach had the visitors ahead 8-0 after just 10 minutes following an early try to hooker Billy Collins. But once Wanderers began to gain some control, they gradually distanced themselves on the scoreboard, scoring five tries to two.
Flanker Loa Windley and winger Riley Johnston scored Wanderers' first half tries to help give them a 14-8 lead at the break. They added a further three in the second through midfielders Alex Lean and Sione Holani and winger Richie Bolitho, as halfback Jackson Harvey added 20 points with his boot.
Outstanding flanker Sam Lunn scored Awatere's only second half try as halfback Sam Clouston and prop Ewen McConnell also produced strong games.
The Marlborough Express