Marist win timely in top-four push
Team jumps to secondNATHAN BURDON
Marist's 22-19 win over Star on Saturday was a timely one as the top four teams in Southland premier rugby jostle for finishing positions down the home straight.
With two rounds to go in the Galbraith Shield regular season, Marist's come-from-behind win at Les George Oval saw them jump from fourth to second and away from the clutches of the fifth-placed Eastern-Northern Barbarians.
Before Saturday only three points separated the top four teams, with the Barbarians striving to cut into the nine point gap between them and the top four.
It was only Star's third loss of the season, but they looked set to push on at halftime when they led the green-and-blacks 14-10.
Some poor defence had contributed to tries to Star first-five Hayden Pope and fullback Junior Ngaluafe, with Marist guilty of sitting back on their heels as the likes of centre Alesana Muliaina and lock Bubba Papalii ran at them.
"I think a lot of the time, because we were making mistakes, the attack came back at us and we weren't really pushing up and putting them under pressure," Marist coach Mark Tinnock said.
"At this time of year, getting points to keep us in the top four is crucial. The amount of mistakes we made in the first half, to win at the end, I'm pretty happy."
Marist will be a lot more dangerous on attack if they can become more accurate with their passing.
Too many passes went behind the man from good attacking ball, and the stilted result meant Keanu Kahukura was something of a wasted resource out on the left wing.
"We felt like we were letting them into the game with the mistakes we were making at the start - a lot of dropped balls when we had people outside," Tinnock said.
Marist flanker Phil Halder was impressive for the winning team, both on attack and defence.
"He's excellent. We didn't think we were going to get him back after an injury to his thumb and that was his first game back. He leads from the front and he really gets into it."
Senior players Hua Tamariki and Iona Sipa rounded out a good loose forward trio for Marist.
"Seeps, getting through another 80 minutes was outstanding, and Hua was trucking around the field. Those two guys really want it and that helps."
Scott Eade had his first game of the season at halfback for Marist, a move that he'd requested.
"I'm not sure if the Southland selectors want him there or not, they haven't spoken to us," Tinnock said.
"We've just put him there because he said he wants to have a crack at it and it's important that we are developing our players to give them the opportunity to get into the Stags."
It was Eade's try from a Halder turnover which got Marist back into the game after halftime.
Otulea Katoa scored a third for Marist to get them out beyond seven points and Star found themselves under pressure with Pope having a bad day with the boot.
Afi Peteru scored inside the final 10 minutes to get Star to within three points, but in the end they had to settle for a bonus point with Marist finishing the game on attack.
"We did some good things out there today," Star coach Craig Pullar said.
"We did enough to win the game, but our finishing was terrible and a couple of mistakes in our 22m cost us."
Elsewhere, Woodlands had to come from behind to beat Pirates-Old Boys 23-17, while the Barbarians beat Blues 25-0 and Midlands secured their first win of the season with a 45-12 victory in the crossover game against division one DLS.
- The Southland Times