Attitude. It's what can turn whipping boys into winners.
Add all-encompassing commitment to the equation and you had exactly the right mix for Stoke's stunning 22-20 upset Bayleys Tasman Trophy rugby win over Wakatu Hotel Marist at Greenmeadows on Saturday.
It almost overshadowed Waitohi's title-winning effort after the Picton-based club maintained their unbeaten record with a convincing 33-8 home win over Harlequins.
Waitohi claimed the title with a match to spare, the Tasman Trophy now heading to Blenheim for the first time in its eight-year history. Unbeaten through 10 rounds of the competition, Waitohi maintained their eight point advantage over closest challengers, Star and Garter Waimea Old Boys and Central, who will now battle for second.
Waitohi's win was predicted. Much less predictable was a remarkable Stoke performance that earned them just their third win of the season and only their first against a Nelson Bays opponent. It was also thoroughly deserved.
Stoke were magnificent for 60 minutes of the contest as smothering defence, three well-taken tries and an unmistakable sense of unity effectively cut off Marist's air supply.
Marist eventually responded in a frantic final 20-minute burst as tries to No 10 Seta Sauira and replacement lock Tyler McKinnon-Stevenson gave them a chance of a late draw.
Marist fullback Jackson Harvey had scored 179 points prior to the game, but he couldn't land the two that counted on Saturday as his final angled conversion attempt fell beneath the cross bar to signal the end of the match.
Apart from new English lock Tom Hicks' towering lineout presence and a superior scrum, Marist were simply outplayed for much of the game as Stoke No 10 Kahu Tamatea's clever control, new second five-eighth Tamaira Raurimu-Carew's punishing midfield bearing and winger Mackenzie Haugh's extreme pace caused Marist endless headaches. Marist were constantly pressured into error as their continued efforts to run the ball were consistently met by Stoke's aggressive and relentless defence.
Marist had scored inside the opening two minutes when halfback Shaun Begg dived across from a ruck on the line. But it would take only another two minutes for Stoke to signal their intent when Haugh scored amid a confused Marist defence to establish a shock 7-5 lead. They'd increase that to 14-8 by halftime after a strong break by Raurimu-Carew put winger Chris Little across. Halfback Thomas Davidson's try just a minute after the restart, again with Marist scrambling in defence, would give them a 19-8 lead - extended to 22-8 following a Tamatea penalty - to send the match into its dramatic final stanzas.
The day wasn't a complete wash for Marist, their losing bonus point still enough to move them ahead of Star and Garter Waimea Old Boys into second on the Car Company Nelson Bays championship ladder. But they received a lesson in attitude from Stoke, which also begged the obvious question - where has that Stoke team been all season?
WOB 92 AWATERE 7 Waimea were too clinical and well-drilled for Awatere in Seddon as they handed the home team a 14-try rugby lesson.
A slick Waimea outfit warmed up in style for their top of the table clash with Waitohi next week. Hat-tricks to Makos halfback Billy Guyton, midfielder Sam Franklin and winger Tevita Tui helped the score rise to an almost embarrassing level as the visitors sliced and diced the hometown defence.
Waimea were very effective in contact and were able to deliver quick ball which continually exposed Awatere out wide.
Loosehead prop Cailam Gibson, blindside flanker Jeff Lepa and winger Tui were prominent in a cohesive Waimea forward effort and the team was expertly guided around the park by Guyton, who showed his class and experience. Luca Roden turned in a superb exhibition of goalkicking to convert all but three of the tries.
Best of the home side was first five-eighth Nemani Raiwalui who defended well and made a good job of the halfback's role in the second spell when Ben Finau left the field with injury.
Centre Manasa Naiyagi picked up Awatere's consolation try midway through the second spell after a James Brown break.
CENTRAL 25 KAHURANGI 5 Central positioned themselves to pick up second place in the Tasman Trophy with a bonus point win against a gritty Kahurangi outfit at Lansdowne Park.
Kahurangi arrived in Blenheim with a willingness to give the ball plenty of air, resulting in a free-flowing, lively encounter.
Central were also in the mood to chase tries, determined to pick up five points and stay in touch with Waimea on the table, but with just one try in the bag by halftime, a paucity of possession and a slender 8-5 lead, they had a long way to go in the final 40.
Although tries to fullback Jeremy Manning, a second touchdown to mobile lock Dan Crockett and a final five-pointer to substitute Riki Winitana got the job done, it was far from easy against a speedy Kahurangi back division and a forward pack that took the game to the home side at every opportunity.
Central's Rawiri Tamati again wore the No 9 jersey with distinction, Nick Malins on the left wing looked likely, Manning took control at the back and blindside flanker Francis Roebeck continued his good form, alongside Makos hooker Quentin MacDonald who stepped up another level in his second match back from Europe. But it was the lightly-built Crockett who stood out, his huge work rate and capacity to be in the right place at the right time a hall mark.
Although well beaten on the scoreboard, Kahurangi competed well, given they were struggling for a front row all week and had only four subs. In particular, prop Sam Brooks showed plenty of heart after being injured last week.
Kahurangi's attitude was to run the ball from anywhere, but they struggled to get quality front foot ball. Despite losing No 10 Mike Wells after 15 minutes with injury, players such as youthful fullback Andrew Knewstubb, who moved into the first five role, midfielders Hana Corbett-Burrows and Kenny Eggers, plus winger Stein Schreiber made the visiting backline unit a dangerous proposition.
- The Marlborough Express