Mackenzie in the running

ON THE RAMPAGE: Big Garrett Casey brushes off the Mackenzie defence as he charges towards the try line.
ON THE RAMPAGE: Big Garrett Casey brushes off the Mackenzie defence as he charges towards the try line.

Mackenzie proved they are real title contenders with a hard-fought 16-14 win over defending champions Celtic in the Hamersley Cup senior rugby, while Temuka climbed back into the race with an excellent 29-23 win over Harlequins.

Pleasant Point cruised to a 54-14 demolition of Geraldine while Old Boys were better than their 43-12 loss to Waimate suggested.

Loose forward turned wing Richard Ford was Waimate's star, scoring four tries and having to work hard for three of them.

The results leave Pleasant Point on top but four other sides within a bonus point win of top spot.

Mackenzie's win saw them leapfrog from fourth to second while Waimate are also well and truly in the mix moving from fifth to third, albeit only a point ahead of Celtic and Harlequins.

Temuka's win also has them back in contention but they will need to continue their giant-killing form of teams ahead of them to squeeze into a semi-final spot.

That will make for intriguing match-up this weekend when Waimate take on Mackenzie at Fairlie and Harlequins face Celtic.

At Alpine Energy Stadium Mackenzie got the points over Celtic in a game that was often ugly.

Mackenzie first five Will Hands had four chances to get his side in the lead and only landed the last one, with four minutes left.

Celtic, however, still had a chance when their kicker Henry Race opted for a touch line attempt at goal rather than what looked like a more straight forward one but further out.

Unfortunately for the Celtic faithful he missed.

The Rams' lineout was woeful, losing seven on the trot, and hooker Johnny Andrews' throwing was poor.

If Celtic want to retain their title they need to get some punch in their backline after their forwards dominated territory and possession.

They also need to be more disciplined after prop Matt Fetu and first five Hamish Strachan ended up binned together after brainless plays.

The positives for Mackenzie was their good defence for long periods of play and a midfield combination of Fa'aitu Tuamoheloa, and George Folau which proved a handful for Celtic.

Celtic coach Nigel Walsh would have been happy with his pack going forward but frustrated at his side's lack of finishing.

He also headed straight for the referee, Lachie McLeod, at half time, but the whistle blower was right on the money.

The game started with penalties being exchanged before Mackenzie scored a superb try after their midfield linked with left wing Josh McAtamney and an inside pass found halfback George Lott, who scored after 15 minutes.

Mackenzie continued to look the far more enterprising side out wide with the little ball they had.

Race then closed the gap with a penalty. Just before halftime Fetu was binned for flying high and dangerously into a maul and Strachan was sent packing for foot tripping a Mackenzie player who took a quick tap.

Despite still being a man down after the break Celtic closed the gap to 9-10 with a Race penalty before Hands restored the advantage.

Midway through the half Fetu burst from a maul and snuck down the touch line to score untouched to give his side a 14-13 lead.

Celtic then struggled for any momentum to push on and the Rams stuck to their plan and came out triumphant.

For Mackenzie, No 8 Stu Cartwright had a big game and the captain organised the defence well, in a pack that at times saw little ball.

Fellow loose forward B J Oliver did a lot of tackling ,while up front Gus Lang played well as did Andrews, lineout throwing aside.

Tuamoheloa and Folau were good on both attack and defence while McAtamney made the most of their opportunities.

For Celtic, No 8 Kali Latu had a huge game with some great ball carries while Nick Strachan also impressed.

The Celtic front row of Fetu, Jason Rooney and Garrett Casey were also prominent. At first five Hamish Strachan tried to set his backline alive but more often it just shovelled the ball sideways.

At Temuka the home side always had the edge, having twice led by 13 points before Harlequins came back. The Magpies were up 12-9 at halftime thanks to two tries and scored again immediately after the break.

As always Harlequins never gave up and were hot on attack when the final whistle went.

For Temuka halfback Josh Rooney had a big game as did hooker Aifala Taelega, who scored two second half tries.

Open side Semisi Paseka was in everything while centre Erenimo Tau and wing Rupeni Cokanasiga impressed. Cokanasiga also added to his try-scoring feats this season, sitting with 10 in eight games, to easily be the best in the competition.

Harlequins had a chance to snatch it at the end but couldn't come up with the crucial play.

Their No 8 Sam Vea had his best game of the season while Gareth Holden at locked toiled away well and Tui Tuaelangi had real impact off the bench.

At Manchester Park Waimate shot out to a 15-0 lead before Old Boys closed the gap to 15-12 at the break.

The Blues held on for another 10 minutes before Waimate found another gear.

For Waimate Ford was the stand-out while hooker Simon Bleeker played very well as did second five Matt Hayman.

Old Boys' best included the Hill brothers, with Doug at No 8 and Tyrone at second five, while 17-year-old Adam Young impressed at centre.

Pleasant Point were just too strong for Geraldine running in eight tries, with fullback Josh Robson and open side Hamish Westgarth both grabbing a double.

For Pleasant Point their midfield of John Peeters and Shane Spiers were stand-outs while youngster Sean Rawiri played his best game for the Mud Dogs.

Geraldine tried using their pick and go but had nothing really in the tank.

Their best were prop Brad Rogers, Aaron England and first five Jarred Trevathan.

The Timaru Herald