A committed Blues team is peaking at the right time to test competition heavyweights Marist in the Southland-wide division two rugby championship final on Saturday.
Blues earned their finals berth with a clinical win over a gallant Riverton team 13-10 in a tense and uncompromising confrontation at Les George Oval on Saturday.
Both teams scored two tries, the difference being a Jack Egerton penalty for Blues.
Meanwhile, Marist brushed the cobwebs away with an emphatic 33-10 (five tries to two) win over Collegiate at Lindisfarne.
"Although Marist certainly deserved its win, perhaps the score did not fully reflect how competitive Collegiate was," referee Dwayne McKenzie rightly observed.
Hooker Cedric Blair, lock Mike Tiplady and pivot Jeremy Boyle contributed well for Marist.
Coach Nathan Burgess said Marist's win by default a week earlier "did us no favours as the boys were slow to start but they gradually wore Collegiate down."
Blues coach Simon Frisby could hardly conceal his delight after his men abided rigidly by a no-nonsense percentage approach into the corners for best field position and launching pads.
Riverton found it difficult to break the vice-like second-half Blues grip.
As they did a week earlier against Pirates-Old Boys, Blues fed off opposition mistakes and capitalised fully on their opportunities to nail two first-half tries in a spell dominated by the visitors, who were unable to finish but scored the only second-half try.
"We knew it would be a tough slog right to the end but our boys wanted it so much, and plenty of heart did the rest," Frisby said.
Riverton coach Steve McKay admitted being "gutted" by the outcome.
"The boys had worked so hard all season . . . I thought loosie Ruben Hopcroft and second five-eighth Karl Schutt, who tackled well in the second half, had fine games for us."
Gus Guise, Riverton's major sponsor for the past 10 years, said his team had "enjoyed a good season and all supporters were proud of them."
The young and rebuilding Albion Excelsior team hinted at further improvement next season when they gained their only championship table success (18-14) over Pirates-Old Boys at a muddy Gore Showgrounds.
Loosehead prop Jake Morton was Excelsior's man of the match, and fullback Tama Tamou also showed up.
Coach Jason Webb said the team would start training early next season and would develop.
Central Pirates Star and visitors Waiau Star will be back in action again at the same Wilsons Crossing ground for the Plate final this Saturday after the two teams locked horns in the mud there on Saturday.
Central Star posted a converted try near fulltime to get home 16-15 in testing conditions but Waiau Star scored two tries to one, the difference being more goals for the hosts (three penalties and a conversion).
"It was a good note on which to end this part of the competition . . . It was a change to win narrowly instead of losing narrowly as had often been the case earlier," successful coach Brad Anderson said.
"I am happy with the team in difficult conditions, which were not suited to running and handling," Waiau Star coach Jerry Adams said.
He identified lock Michael McCulloch as his standout.
Hosts Wrights Bush closed their season on a high note by lifting the coveted Hamilton Shield off Midlands with a gutsy 17-10 success after leading 14-0 at halftime.
"We spun the ball wide for two midfield tries in the first half," coach Brendan Hamilton said.
Midlands spokesman Vinnie Cruickshank said: "Wrights Bush came out hard in the first half and we were then forced into catch-up mode."
Albion-Excelsior 18 (Jason King, Jake Morton tries; Corey Maniopoto 2 pen, con) Pirates-Old Boys 14 (Jamie Clarke, Shahn Bragg tries; Jared McCulloch, Simon Pollard con). HT: 5-7
Marist 33 (Tai Raumati 2, Mose Robertson, Craig Wilson, Illy Delasau tries; Jeremy Boyle 4 con) Collegiate 10 (Duanne Harper, Malcolm Nathan tries). HT: 12-5
Blues 13 (Maka Mohi, Tim Eade tries; Jack Egerton pen) Riverton 10 (Karl Thompson, Colin Thompson tries). HT: 13-5.
Wrights Bush 17 (Mark McColl, Logan Nicholson tries; Nicholson 2 cons, pen) Midlands 10 (Cam Dawson, Sam Stewart tries). HT: 14-0
Central Pirates-Star 16 (Matt Lowe try; Matt Escott con, 3 pen) Waiau Star 15 (Michael McCulloch, Jimmy Dennison tries); Simon Van Dam con, pen). HT: 6-12
Woodlands defaulted to Balfour-Lumsden
- The Southland Times