The old adage, "What a difference a week makes", is how I would describe the weekend's action in the Wadsco Marlborough Premier Rugby competition.
It was pretty evident after the first week of club rugby that there was frustration brewing between players, coaches and the Marlborough refereeing. The first round was marred by stop-start games that never got a flow on and all games had players trudging to the sin bin at crucial times.
The good news is this was by and large not repeated in this latest weekend of matches as all games had better flow, discipline and were officiated in a less dictatorial way.
For me this is a huge relief because if we are going to grow the sport of rugby in our region we need to get to a situation in which all our stakeholders are working together to produce footy that is enjoyed.
This means players, coaches, refs and spectators all have to play their part to make it happen.
I trekked out to Awarua Park at the weekend and watched the Harlequins vs Moutere match, and I went away from the match content as I had watched two committed teams who put on an entertaining match. The other person who needs a pat on the back for making this an enjoyable match to watch was referee Ken MacKenzie, who had a top game with the whistle.
What I really liked about Ken's performance was that he showed some empathy with players and let the game flow a bit more than some of his colleagues did the previous week. On the flip side he didn't let any obvious infringements go and made sure the teams didn't let their emotions get carried away.
It was just so refreshing to see a referee let a game of rugby be decided by the 30 players playing the game, as in the past few seasons players and coaches would debate that this has not occurred on all occasions. His performance was hopefully a blueprint for all games in the region this season.
Ken's job was made easier by the players playing their part more this week as well, and a big plug has to go to the Harlequins side who played with a lot more skill and passion at the weekend than the previous week.
Vaea Samasoni was a real threat with ball in hand for Harlequins and their backs looked a lot more dangerous this week. Gav Morrison impressed with a second half cameo.
Up front Pierre Vienings was lion hearted and their loosies kept going for 80 minutes. Even though Moutere will be disappointed with the result and their error-ridden performance, they still have the talent and spirit to mix it with the big boys of this competition.
Baxter Wilson is a talented No 8, who scored a hat trick of tries on the weekend, and Mike Curry goes well as a flanker, they need some more workers doing the yards up front to complement them.
It was great to see Renwick push Awatere all the way at Seddon. I cheekily said on the More FM sports radio show that I thought "daylight" would come second in the Awatere v Renwick match.
Well the Renwick boys proved me wrong! They will continue to trip the odd team up, and will always be well prepared for battle by Tony Katting and Bull Stewart.
The two preseason powerhouse teams Central and Waitohi couldn't be separated at Lansdowne Park on the weekend. Great to see players like Veron Fredricks and Jesse MacDonald locking horns against each other.
Wille Umu again impressed with a brace of tries, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue this form into the Tasman Trophy in a month or so.
Looking at my picks for this week, Waitohi will pip Harlequins, Central will beat Renwick and Moutere will bounce back from this week and snatch a late victory over Awatere at the Creek.
- The Marlborough Express