Marist hold on to grab second spot
A timely piece of opportunism by left wing Connor Trathen helped Marist secure second place and a date with Stoke in next weekend's Car Company Nelson Bays division one rugby playoffs.
Wakatu Hotel Marist leapfrogged bye team Accessman Stoke into second place after Saturday's gruelling 10-3 win over Star and Garter Waimea Old Boys at Jubilee Park, while a 10-all draw with Taylors Contracting Wanderers at Brightwater was enough for New World Huia to cement fourth place - and with it, the unenviable task of trying to halt Galbraith Group Nelson's momentum in next weekend's other semifinal.
Nelson eased to a seven-try 49-9 win over Enza Riwaka at Trafalgar Park to keep their unbeaten season firmly intact.
However, Marist were celebrating their game's only try, and a controversial one at that, as they held on to beat home team Waimea in wet and windy conditions in Richmond.
An early Josh Rutledge penalty had given Waimea a 3-0 halftime lead, a margin they continued to hold 15 minutes into the second half. But when a penalty attempt by Marist No 10 Jason Merrett sailed to the left of the posts, a quick-following Trathen dived on the ball as his team-mates celebrated the potentially match-winning try.
The officials conferred before ruling in Trathen's favour, despite protestations by Waimea fullback Tom Cross that he'd touched the ball first.
It pushed Marist to a 7-3 lead which, considering the conditions, ultimately proved critical as they continued to keep Waimea pinned inside their own half for the remainder of the match. Occasional Waimea breakouts, with No 8 Ben Eder leading one threatening raid, were well contained by Marist's defence, leaving Merrett to kick his first successful penalty with 10 minutes remaining and complete the win.
Marist played sensibly over the final stages, using the slippery conditions to keep the ball behind Waimea with deft kicks. Marist No 8 Joe Yalayala made impressive ground in a series of strong runs throughout the match, although it wasn't a day where an adventurous approach was likely to be rewarded.
Nelson 49 Riwaka 9
Nelson belied the conditions to run in seven tries at Trafalgar Park, although arguably just as pleasing was their ability to keep their line intact for a second straight week.
All Riwaka's points again came from the boot of wing Andy Beatson with three first-half penalties. However, with Nelson crossing four times in the first half and a further three times in the second, there was little Riwaka could do to stem the flow of points.
Nelson led 30-9 at the break, with centre Farrell Mulipola, flanker Shane Grieve, midfielder Andrew Goodman and other flanker Mitchell Thwaites providing the first-half tries. But it took time for Nelson to establish any attacking rhythm, as early mistakes and handling errors created a frustrating opening quarter.
A more patient approach and improved structure gradually produced points, Nelson adding a further three tries in the second half through Mulipola, hooker Christian Tupuola and finally to loosie Lama Maloni.
No 8 Shane Christie was a key figure in Nelson's attack, promoting the ball and creating crucial go-forward, while Goodman provided a similar role as one of Nelson's most penetrative backs. Lock James Foster was again prominent in the tight exchanges.
Riwaka first five-eighth Paul Burton again impressed in a losing cause, displaying some clever touches on attack, while flanker Hana Corbett-Burrows produced a typically aggressive performance.
Huia 10 Wanderers 10
Huia looked like they had the winning of the match after they managed to secure a handy 10-3 lead early in the second half.
They'd led 7-3 at the break following a first-half try to lock Osai Feao, Wanderers' points coming from the boot of halfback Jackson Harvey. But after No 10 Jesse Rush landed his second successful kick of the day to push Huia seven points clear, Wanderers resisted strongly over the final stages as a converted try to Harvey had the home team within reach of a late victory.
Neither team could break the deadlock, Wanderers paying for a plague of costly first-half mistakes to allow Huia to establish an early grip on the contest. Wanderers produced a strong forward effort and looked to gain some advantage from a dominant scrum. But they couldn't force the issue as some dogged Huia defence and continual lapses into error eventually produced a stalemate.
Lock Kurtis Bandy had one of his strongest games in an impressive Wanderers forward effort, with midfielders Sione Holani and Trael Joass and wing Riley Johnston effective on attack.
Centre Tema Faifua ignored a lingering hamstring strain to again emerge as Huia's most dangerous back, while halfback Marcus Saunders, flanker Kane McLeod and hooker Warren Stevens also impressed.
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