Mackenzie come out on top
What is believed to be one of the biggest crowds seen at Mackenzie's Strathconan Park watched the top of the table clash between neighbours Mackenzie and Pleasant Point where the home team ran out winners by 35-12 on Saturday.
The second half burst to life after the first 40 minutes ended in an arm-wrestle at 8-7.
There was plenty of try scoring in the other senior matches despite the underfoot conditions, with Celtic accounting for Temuka 38-27, Waimate beating Geraldine 29-7 and Harlequins running rampant in a nine-try, 64-0 romp over Old Boys.
It is a long time since a top of the table clash may have occurred between Mackenzie and Pleasant Point, and the players responded with the Mackenzie Seniors showing their trademark composure as they took the match away from Pleasant Point in the second half to reverse the first round result.
In a strong forward display led by Mackenzie captain Stu Cartwright, Mackenzie were able to dominate the Pleasant Point pack, playing at the right end of the park and allowing their backs to capitalise as they ran in several second half tries.
Wing Sammy Puafisi had a great match as did fullback George Williams with some incisive runs as they picked up the important bonus point.
Harlequins showed some enterprising attack against Old Boys despite having five players unavailable and 38-year-old assistant manager Hayden Leonard having to kit up on the bench. Old Boys were also battling for numbers but both teams were soon into the game.
A rearranged Harlequins backline, with Zane Sanders moving to halfback and Paula Fifita at first-five, was soon functioning.
Ally Duddle at fullback had one of his best games of the season, contributing 29 points with two tries, three penalties and five conversions. His backs brought up the four-try bonus straight after halftime with Fifita carving up ground at will. He often beat more than half a dozen would-be tacklers on his way to three tries and setting up numerous others. The Old Boys defence just had no answer.
While Old Boys did have periods of sustained attack during the first half and late in the second half, the pick-and-go policy was not making a lot of headway, and in fact the ball never made it across the full backline until well into the second half as one-off players continued to drive it up.
Defending champions Celtic kept their finals momentum as they dominated up front to starve Temuka of enough possession to cause an upset.
Celtic could not quite shake Temuka off as they scored just before halftime to close the score up to 14-16 in favour of Celtic at the break.
Temuka scored four tries - with fullback Josh Palmer grabbing two - to pick up a bonus point. However, knowing a win was needed they made decisions at times that may have prevented them gaining two points.
Celtic scored two very good tries that began from lineout drives. Prop Garret Casey had another big game while all the Latu brothers had good matches led by No 8, Kali.
Two tries in each half to Waimate against the solitary one in the second half to Geraldine gave Waimate a comfortable win.
Waimate would have been pleased to walk away with the four-try bonus point they were after despite not playing their best game, with the forwards battling for parity in much of the set piece.
Irish prop Peter Reilly had his best match since arriving in NZ while Toko Fakatava made a good fist of his new No 8 position. The power and drive of Jared Matthews at centre kept the Wallabies going forward, but Geraldine never went away and were competitive across the park.
The road ahead gets no easier for Pleasant Point who will be looking to stop a rapidly improving Celtic side next week to arrest their slide down the table, while Harlequins travel to Fairlie for a big showdown and Waimate at home will want to revenge their first round loss to Temuka. For Old Boys and Geraldine it will be a battle to get/stay off the bottom of the table at Alpine Energy Stadium.
The Timaru Herald