Central and Renwick will head into the forthcoming Marlborough sub-union championship with renewed confidence after scoring notable victories on Saturday.
Both teams were out of contention for play-off positions in the E’stel Tasman Trophy during Saturday’s final round, but made bold statements against Nelson opposition.
Renwick, winless so far this season, broke their drought in style, tipping over the previously unbeaten Marist side, who sat on top of the standings heading into the weekend.
The Green Machine came up with five tries to shut out Marist 33-17, but it was their work on defense that pleased head coach Glenn Blackmore the most.
“Our win was built around defense. We have leaked on average 34 points a game, but today we tackled well as a team and put them under a lot of pressure, forced turnovers and scored some good tries on the back of that.
“I’ve always felt that [the first win] hasn’t been too far away,” he said, “today we just fixed a few of the things that have been missing in our previous games.
“[Marist] probably felt they didn’t have too much to lose and not much to play for, but we had plenty to play for.”
Renwick went into halftime 19-5 ahead after defending their line for five minutes before the break, a defensive effort Blackmore described as a “game changer”.
Lock Owen Soper had a strong game for the home side, while loosies Atu Taufa and Cody Weir also put in big shifts. In the backs, Kyle Marfell defended and carried well while winger Zac Harrison-Jones picked up two tries and winger Varani Komaisavai also looked sharp.
With the monkey off their backs Renwick have four games remaining to consolidate their play-off position and create some momentum heading into the sub-union semis.
“In a lot of games we have been right in there but unable to finish them off, today we shut the game down and kept on playing rugby, which was probably the key.
“The players have always stayed positive … but [today’s win] is only a start, we have got to keep on moving forward.”
Meanwhile Central underlined their mid-season resurgence by disposing of Stoke 60-15 at Lansdowne Park, forwards and backs combining to run in nine tries through some scintillating inter-passing.
The Blues have often drifted in and out of games, but on Saturday they kept their foot on the throat of a dangerous Stoke outfit.
Quickly-recycled ball at the breakdown was used well by their enterprising backline. First five Mitch Smith served as a distributor for the likes of Nigel Satherley, Jake Cresswell and elusive fullback Timoci Tavatavanawai to cut holes in the Stoke defence.
Six of the Blues tries were scored by forwards, rampaging No 8 Francis Roebeck and replacement frontrower Dusty Foley grabbing a brace apiece, while Jesse Eising and Jesse MacDonald also got on the scoresheet.
Flanker Braden Stewart had another top game, coming out on top of his battle with the highly-rated Anty Burnett, while props Daniel van Waas and Peter Vakaloa operated strongly against a big pack.
Head coach Mark Stewart said his side were coming together well, picking up three consecutive wins after a slow start. “The boys are beginning to build on some things that were probably left a bit late for the Tasman Trophy, but they are really buying into what we are doing now and starting to play … beginning to express themselves.”
The three other Marlborough-based sides in action on Saturday were not so fortunate, Moutere losing 37-24 to Wanderers at Awarua Park, Waitohi going down 50-17 to Kahurangi in Riwaka and East Coast being defeated 40-33 by Waimea Old Boys at Jubilee Park.
The Coasters trailed 26-7 at halftime but ran in four second-half tries to level the scores at 33-33 with 10 minutes to play before Waimea midfielder Alex Coventry intercepted a pass and sprinted away to clinch the win.
Marist’s loss means Waimea Old Boys leapfrog them to the top of the Tasman Trophy standings and earn top spot for the semis, where they will face fourth-qualifier Waitohi. Marist will meet Wanderers in the other semi next Saturday while the other seven teams will have the weekend off.
The sub-union competition begins on Saturday, June 8, the same day as the Tasman Trophy final.
Renwick 33 (Zac Harrison-Jones 2, Varani Komaisavai 2, Jan Hasenlechner tries, Michael Dillon 4 con) Marist 17. HT: 19-5
Kahurangi 50 Waitohi 17 (Corey Bovey , Saia Tokai, Euygene Taylor tries, Bovey con).
Wanderers 37 Moutere 24 (Aki Kaumavae 2, Petuli Taufaga, Tupu Sapati tries, Max Freydell 2 con).
Waimea Old Boys 40 East Coast 33 (Sione Veau, Myles Hamilton, Sam Houston, Nemia Ranuku 2 tries, Hamilton 4 con). HT: 26-7 Waimea
Central 60 (Jesse MacDonald, Francis Roebeck 2, Nigel Satherley 2, Dusty Foley 2, Jesse Eising, Timoci Tavatavanawai tries, Mitch Smith 6 con, pen) Stoke 15 (Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Chris Little tries, Declan Smith pen, con). HT: 28-8
Final Tasman Trophy standings (provisional): Waimea Old Boys 43, Marist 42, Wanderers 37, Waitohi 30, Kahurangi 27, Nelson 26, East Coast 25, Central 24, Stoke 17, Renwick 10, Moutere 8.
Semifinal draw: Waimea Old Boys v Waitohi; Marist v Wanderers.
The Moutere women’s team maintained their unbeaten form in the Tasman division one competition on Saturday, accounting for Motueka High School 37-22 in Motueka.
The Magpies tries were scored by Sariah Tautari (2), Pippa Andrews, Hannah Gillespie, Kate Asplet, Ripeka Tepana and Leti Fotumoala. Aiesha Tepuia landed one conversion.
Standings: Moutere 12, Waimea Old Boys 10, Wanderers 6, Motueka HS 5, Awatere 3.