Upsets at top and bottom
It was a weekend of upheaval in the latest round of the Hamersley Cup.
Pleasant Point lost their first match of the season while Old Boys won their first.
The competition leaders lost to second-placed Celtic 38-31 at Pleasant Point and last-placed Old Boys beat Geraldine 36-20 at Morrison Park.
In the other games on Saturday, Harlequins beat Temuka 61-17 in Temuka, while Waimate beat Mackenzie 3-0 in wretched conditions in Fairlie.
Celtic deserved their win even if the circumstances were contentious.
With two minutes to go, Celtic first-five Willie Wright launched a head-high tackle on Pleasant Point second-five Michael Newman, preventing a certain try. Wright was sin-binned for the offence, but the referee declined to award Pleasant Point a penalty try.
The home side attempted one last push but Celtic held on.
Celtic coach Nigel Walsh was a relieved man.
"I don't care how you win at Pleasant Point, it still counts. We got the combinations right in the first half, and I was proud of the boys' defence in the second half," he said.
Pleasant Point coach Gavin Miller was worried about the toll the match took on his side. Flankers Hamish Westgarth and Grant McKerchar and halfback Patrick Ryan left the field with injuries.
He declined to comment about the referee's decision not to award the penalty try.
"We were too rusty at the start, that's what lost it for us," he said.
Celtic led 30-17 at halftime thanks to some clever work from the backs.
Right wing Robert Jordan scored the side's opening try after he charged down a clearance kick and picked up the loose ball. In the 22nd minute, Jordan flicked a quick pass to halfback Sekope Maea, who set up flanker Kalolo Tuiloma to score. Tuiloma scored his second try shortly afterwards off a similarly well-worked manoeuvre.
Centre John Peters' try off a set move, and a bustling effort from prop Mike Tuiloma from a lineout, kept Pleasant Point in the match.
Celtic occasionally resorted to cynical tactics, with both second-five Tanu Suavine and centre Pat Tuapola being sin-binned for deliberate knock-downs.
After dominating possession in the second half, Pleasant Point's good work paid off when Afioa Fagalima peeled off the back of a scrum to score in the 70th minute.
Yet Aporosa Tabulawaki's runaway try two minutes later seemingly put the result beyond doubt at 38-24. Pleasant Point winger Aaron Geary had other ideas, scoring a try against the run of play in response.
Pleasant Point spent the last moments pressuring Celtic's defensive line but they couldn't breach it.
The loss ended Pleasant Point's 11-match unbeaten streak but they remain top of the table.
Meanwhile, Old Boys coach Paul Annear said his side's first win of the season was surreal.
"One of our players, Gary Tutunoa, lost his child in the car crash earlier this week. Everyone was playing for him," he said.
Old Boys scored five tries, including a brace to halfback Jarrod Cooper, while blindside flanker Tim Penitani scored a try in his 50th match for the club.
For Geraldine, lock Aaron Coles marked his 100th match for his club with a brace of tries, but player-coach Matt Hayes said Old Boys played "like men possessed".
Mackenzie coach Colin Jordan was surprised they played against Waimate at the snow-affected Fairlie grounds.
"The groundsman ploughed and salted the grounds overnight [before Saturday's match]. There were some sore players at the end of the match," he said.
Waimate fullback George Williams scored the only points of the match with a penalty.
Co-coach Paul Henshaw said they played conservatively because of the slippery conditions. Waimate's win sneaked them into the top four.
Harlequins scored nine tries to three to thrash Temuka. Centre Paul Fifita, blindside flanker Sam Vea and openside flanker Daniel Sparks all picked up two tries apiece, while halfback Scott Norton kicked eight conversions.
Coach Ken Wills was also impressed by lock Gareth Holden's efforts in the lineouts.
For Temuka, No 8 Joeli Kotabalava scored a try and tackled well, but coach Brendan Millar said his squad had been depleted by injuries.
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