Central announced their return to premier rugby, post lockdown, with a convincing 38-14 victory over Waitohi at Picton’s Endeavour Park on Saturday afternoon.
The match was a replay of last year’s Marlborough sub-union division one final, but this time with a different result as the Blues, who had a bye last week when rugby resumed, gained revenge for last year’s defeat.
They led 18-6 at halftime through tries to prop Lockie McCormick and exciting midfielder Timoci Tavatavanawai, plus two penalties and a conversion to Mitch Smith, then added three more touchdowns in the second spell, a contentious penalty try augmenting touchdowns by flanker Braden Stewart and utility back Ra Tamati.
Central No 8 Matt McCormick and Waitohi prop Losi Malimali were red carded near the end of the second half for fighting, on an afternoon when plenty of cards were dished out by referee Vaughan Warburton during a scrappy, stop-start encounter.
The home side picked up a try to hard-working lock Dylan Burns and lost a couple of key players through injuries. However, they would have few reasons to quibble over the final result as they relinquished their hold on the John Goodman Challenge Trophy after just one week.
Tavatavanawai and fellow midfielder Nigel Satherley were heavily involved on both attack and defence for the Blues, who were well served by the cool head and ability to clear pressure of utility back Mitch Smith.
Stewart, plus fellow loosie Matt McCormick, impressed up front, along with Jesse MacDonald, who was tireless on defence, plus lock Jone Lasaganibau.
Taine Cragg-Love showed the way for the Tohis, along with fellow loosie Burns, lock Andre Hebberd and hooker Taimi Fangatua.
No 10 Tim O’Malley, until leaving the field injured early in the second spell, dictated play well for the home side, while fullback Gannon Karena and halfback Karlos Tautari did their best to provide spark.
Meanwhile, at the Renwick Domain, the home side continued their unbeaten run with a 21-10 victory over Awatere, leaving the Green Machine and Central as the only unbeaten sides.
Renwick led 7-5 at the break, two further converted tries in the second half propelling them to victory against a committed Awatere outfit, who scored their second try late in the match and finished stronger than the home side.
Renwick coach Glenn Blackmore described this encounter as his side’s toughest game of the season.
“It was a tough grind. Awatere came back well at us, they have a very good midfield and a good scrum … it turned into a bit of a war,” he said.
Like the Picton game, there was not a lot of continuity for either side, a stream of penalties interrupting the flow of proceedings.
Blackmore said Kyle Marfell, Thomas, replacements Daniel Jones and Jayden Lister, plus skipper Josh Holdaway and Tuineau were the pick of the home side’s performers.
Awatere’s best were midfielder Vea, Will Chaffey and Jake Collins.
Central 38 (Lockie McCormick, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Braden Stewart, Ra Tamati tries, Mitch Smith 3 pen, con, penalty try) Waitohi 14 (Dylan Burns try, Tim O’Malley 2 pen, Dylan McManaway pen). HT 18-6.
Renwick 21 (Josh Thomas, Cody Weir, George Tuineau tries, Michael Dillon 3 con) Awatere 12 (Sione Vea 2 tries, Franco Quinones con). HT 7-5
MSU standings after three rounds: Renwick 14, Central 10, Waitohi 6, Moutere 1, Awatere 0.
Tasman women’s competition
Moutere 50 Central 0; Riwaka 17 Wanderers 10.