Waitohi and East Coast continue to punch above their weight in the E’stel Tasman Trophy rugby competition, defying the pre-season odds to be the best-placed of the Marlborough teams.
On Saturday, the Tohis and Coasters scored away wins to keep them well in contention for semifinal places.
With all five matches being played in Nelson the pressure was on the visiting teams to lift their game and buck the trend of Nelson-based dominance, but just two of the Marlborough sides were able to do so.
Waitohi scored a comprehensive 28-7 win over Nelson at Neale Park while East Coast eased past Stoke 20-17 at Greenmeadows, picking up the prized John Goodman Challenge Trophy in the process.
Their efforts have propelled them into third and fourth places respectively on the standings, a fair distance behind unbeaten front-runners Waimea Old Boys and Marist, but right in the mix for play-off positions with four weeks before semifinal time.
Before the season kicked off in mid-March that situation seemed highly improbable for a Waitohi side content at that stage to scratch a premier side together, admitted player/coach Jimmy Giles.
“The first goal, seven weeks ago was just to get a competitive team on the field.
“We haven’t got a big squad, only about 19 players. We aren’t doing anything flash, just trying to nail the basics and turning up for each other.
“To be sitting third after seven rounds is unreal … more than I would have wanted.”
Waitohi had a rampaging first half performance to thank for their victory, the Picton side leading 21-0 after 40 minutes, albeit with a stiff breeze at their backs.
Although Nelson came back at them they were able to restrict them to a single second half try, while picking up their fourth touchdown to secure a valuable bonus point.
“We lost the toss or we would probably have played into [the wind],” said Giles. “We just played in the right areas, they made mistakes and we took most of our opportunities.
“We knew we had to grind out the second half into the wind but we played the conditions better. The forward pack just ground it out and did a really good job. No-one shirked their duty.”
Flankers Rocky Leofo and Taine Cragg-Love, plus front-rowers Taimi Fangatua and Manu Mataele toiled hard up front while fullback Tuli Paea continued his exceptional form and first five Corey Bovey again directed traffic inteligently.
The match at Greenmeadows was close throughout, Coast leading just 5-3 at the break before but the visitors pushed ahead 17-5. However, this season East Coast have shown that they have the mental strength to win the close ones and they soon levelled the scores with tries to lock Jordan Judge and winger Sione Veau.
With 10 minutes to go the reliable Myles Hamilton landed a penalty to give them the go-ahead points and the resilience that has marked their three home wins this season allowed them to hold on for their first away victory.
Head coach Sam Lunn said his team’s performance, “wasn’t great, but we got it done”, on a wet track.
He praised the work of locks Jordan Judge and Stu Campbell, plus lightweight loosie Michael Ryan, as well as fullback Sam Westenra.
In other matches, a much-improved Moutere went down 64-33 to the high-flying Waimea Old Boys combination at Jubilee Park while Central lost to Marist 45-23 at Tahunanui and Renwick bowed to Wanderers 34-21 at Brightwater.
Tasman Trophy results
Waitohi 28 (Tuli Paea, Sosaia Tokai, Daniel Samita, Taine Cragg-Love tries, Corey Bovey 4 con) Nelson 7. HT: 21-0.
East Coast 20 (Jordan Judge, Sione Veau 2 tries, Myles Hamilton pen, con) Stoke 17. HT: 5-3 East Coast.
Waimea Old Boys 64 Moutere 33 (Matt McCormick 2, Petueli Taufaga 2, Tupu Sapati tries, 4 con Max Freydell). HT 38-21.
Wanderers 34 Renwick 21 (Josh Holdaway 2, Matt Patterson tries, Kurt Schollum 3 con). HT: 17-14 Wanderers
Marist 45 Central 23 (Jesse MacDonald, Braden Stewart, Peter Vakaloa tries, Mitch Smith 1 con, 2 pen). HT: 21-13 Marist
Standings after seven rounds: Waimea Old Boys 32*, Marist 30, Waitohi 21, East Coast 20, Kahurangi 19, Wanderers 18, Nelson 15*, Stoke 10, Central 10*, Renwick 4*, Moutere 3. * still to have a bye.
Tasman women’s competition results
Moutere 29 Wanderers 10; Waimea Old Boys 50 Awatere 0.
MBC win well
Meanwhile, the NZ King Salmon Marlborough Boys’ College First XV warmed up for their opening game in the University of Canterbury championship next weekend by taking care of Wellington College in a pre-season match at the MBC front field today.
The Falcons prevailed 43-17 over a potentially-dangerous capital side, scoring seven tries while conceding just three.
MBC led 19-10 at halftime after scoring in the first few minutes, then repelling a strong comeback from the Wellington College side who scored twice to lead 10-5 midway through the first spell.
Two tries to hard-running hooker Te Ariki Peipi before the break put the home side in front, then they dominated the majority of the second spell, mixing clever attack with resolute defence, while bustling the visitors into error.
Midfielder Tristan Tayor was a standout for the home side, along with loosehead prop Monu Moli, lightweight flanker William MacKenzie and first five Keelan Murrell.
The Falcons’ first game in the UC championship takes place on May 4 in Ashburton against Mid Canterbury Combined. Their first home game is the following week, against St Andrew’s College.