Central came out on top in a division one rugby arm wrestle with Renwick at Lansdowne Park on Saturday.
Although the Blues prevailed 14-8, there was little to separate the table-topping teams, both unbeaten heading into the final weekend of the first round.
Both sides were well organised, defensively and on attack, making for a low-scoring match, just two tries being scored.
Both came in the first spell and were unconverted, leaving the scores locked 5-5 at the break. A penalty apiece to rival fullbacks, Renwick’s Michael Dillon and Central’s Mitch Smith, saw the scores tied 8-8 halfway through the final stanza, before two late penalties to Smith sealed the deal.
In perfect, windless rugby conditions both sides endeavoured to move the ball quickly to the fringes but battled to do so accurately.
Renwick’s try, to centre Falaula Fotu Moala, was a notable exception, the Green Machine using the full width of the park to find space. Central’s try, to hooker Jesse MacDonald, one of the best players on the park, was scored in close quarters, but the Blues did their best to mix up their attacking options whenever possible.
On balance, the Central probably deserved to claim the first round trophy, retain the John Goodman Challenge Trophy and relieve Renwick of the weekly Challenge Cup. They defended superbly in the first 15 minutes when Renwick camped on their line, then handled the big moments better in the latter stages.
Having said that, there is little to separate these sides, who would be early favourites to contest the premier final on August 29.
The other match saw Awatere finally register their first win of what has been a frustrating season so far, beating Moutere 36-7 at Seddon.
Awatere coach Kaleni Taetuli said, “It was really really good for the boys to see what they are capable of.
“Our set pieces were stable and that meant our backs got quality ball, then they took advantage of the space they created. It had a flow-on effect and our skill levels were much better.”
The home side led 29-0 at halftime, with Moutere able to hold Awatere to one more converted try in the second 40, while scoring one themselves.
Prop Seymour Lambert led by example for Awatere, alongside skilful hooker Jake Collins and Argentinian fullback Franco Quinones, who scored 21 points.
Scores: Central 14 (Jesse MacDonald try, Mitch Smith 3 pen) Renwick 8 (Falaula Fotu Moala try, Michael Dillon pen) HT: 5-5
Awatere 36 (Franco Quinones 2, Sione Vea, Ben Filipo, Brogan Matthew tries, Quinones 4 con, pen) Moutere 7 (Jack Best try, Amco Cassidy con). HT: 29-0.
Standings after the first round: Central 18, Renwick 15, Waitohi 8, Moutere 6, Awatere 6.
Both of the Marlborough-based teams involved in the Tasman division one women’s competition were well beaten on Saturday.
Central lost 81-5 to Wanderers at Lansdowne Park, while Moutere went down 70-0 to Waimea Old Boys at Awarua Park.
Meanwhile, the Marlborough Boys’ College First XV are finally on the board.
They made sure their lengthy trek to Timaru to play Timaru Boys’ High School in the University of Canterbury championship was not a wasted effort, picking up a vital 30-24 win.
MBC scored three tries in each half, not managing any conversions, and led 15-0 at the break. With 10 minutes to go they led 30-13, before a late Timaru revival closed the gap and made for a few nervous final moments.
Matt MacDougall, MBC head coach, said his side’s efforts were like “chalk and cheese” compared with last week’s performance.
“We spent the week encouraging our guys to shift the ball around … to express themselves and that’s exactly what they did.
“We scored some really nice tries, getting width on our attack, while the forward pack did some great work up the middle. This was certainly a timely win.”
Big No 8 Viliami Napa’a was hugely impressive, along with hooker Ben Dalton in his first start for the team. Openside flanker Toby McLeod slotted in superbly to a new position while Kyren Taumoefolau ran the cutter well at first five, his game management improving each week. Young winger Charles Tupoutoa was also outstanding along with midfielder Dom Freeth who made his debut off the bench.
It was MBC’s first victory of the season, having previously lost to St Thomas of Canterbury, Shirley and St Andrews and lifts them to ninth on the table. Their next game is against old rivals Nelson College, in Blenheim on Monday, July 20.
MBC 30 (Cooper Roberts 2, Nase Taufa, Ben Dalton, Ryan McLeod tries) Timaru BHS 24. HT: 15-0 MBC
This week’s other scores: Christ’s College 73 Roncalli 0; Nelson College 41 St Thomas 0; Waimea 42 Lincoln 10; Rangiora 70 Mid Canterbury 0; St Bede’s 28 Shirley 24; St Andrew’s 24 Christchurch BHS 19.