Shannon Frizell claims lineout ball on Saturday evening. Photo: Supplied.

Big men up front pave way for Mako win

Heading into their first match of the 2020 Mitre 10 Cup most of the talk centred on the Makos supercharged back division and the capers they were expected to cut.

However, it was the Tasman forwards who paved the way for their 41-24 victory over Counties Manukau on Saturday evening.

They opened their account with two clinical tries to hooker Andrew Makalio, both scored from five metre lineout drives – not pretty, but pretty effective.

Later, as the Mako slowly but surely tightened their grip on the game, they scored twice more thorough the forwards, Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta and Shannon Frizell dotting down.

Centre Leicester Fainga’anuku chipped in with a long-range effort, but that was just the icing on a cake well and truly baked by the men up front.

The presence of All Blacks Frizell and prop Tyrel Lomax can’t be underestimated, but it was very much a 13-man effort up front.

Lock had been pinpointed as a potential problem area for the Mako, given the absence of outstanding middle-rowers Quinten Strange and Pari Pari Parkinson but the engine room roles were admirably filled by the ever-reliable Alex Ainley and man-of-the-match Cirtikidaveta.

Andrew Goodman, Mako co-head coach, was heartened by the efforts of his big men.

“Te Ahiwaru has been around our environment for three years now. We have been pushing him hard in training and he was outstanding today, getting through 80 minutes of work he can be really proud of.

“All the locks today put their hands up, Alex was awesome with his leadership. He was always just going to have 40 [minutes], then young Moni Ngakuru came on at halftime, got some lineout ball and got into the rhythm of the game, which was cool.”

Goodman also praised the efforts of livewire halfback Finlay Christie, winger Mark Telea and replacement Fetuli Paea, suggesting “the impact he made when he came on was a bit of a game-changer”.

A strength of the Makos previous campaign has been front row depth off the bench and, despite the absence of such stalwarts as Wyatt Crockett and Tim Perry, Goodman felt they again got full value from his low numbers.

“Isi Tu’ungafasi was up against Nepo Laulala at the start and he did a really good job in his first game for us, then two guys who have played club footy all year, Kershawl Sykes-Martin and Sam Matenga, both played well and will get better and better each week. We are happy with the depth we have got there.”

However, of concern to the Mako brains trust will be the fact Counties Manukau were able to score three tries from close range. But, as they have shown in recent times, they will react to that potential weakness and adjust their defence accordingly.

Goodman said his side took some time to get into the game but adapted and reaped the rewards.

“Counties were a much-improved team from last year, they set a really good tempo which we didn’t quite match at the start. Their set piece caught us out a couple of times.

“It was anyone’s game at halftime, but we just talked about the need for us to look after the ball better and build the phases. We thought that if we could string five or six [phases] together they would have some tired defenders and we could take advantage of that.

“Our contestable kicks also worked well when it came to putting pressure on.”

As an opening hit-out, with little time together and seven players new to the Mako involved, there was a lot to like about the Mako performance in Pukekohe.

Next up for the defending premiership champs is a date with Northland in Blenheim on Friday night. The Taniwha always turn up with proud, gritty performances but may be lacking in horsepower against a side with attacking potential all over the paddock.

Tasman 41 (Makalio 2, Cirikidaveta, Faingaanuku, Frizell tries, Hunt 5 cons, 2 pens) Counties Manukau 24 (Leavasa, Papali’I, Taulani tries, Kerr 3 cons, 1 pen)

 

Mako Women

Meanwhile, at Lansdowne Park on Saturday the Tasman women’s team opened their Farah Palmer Cup campaign with a 62-0 loss to Wellington Pride.

The northerners, a division one side, led 36-0 at halftime. It was a rude awakening for the Mako, who have previously played in the second division section.

Coach Mel Bosman said, “now they all know what division one is all about. It was a bit of a shock to the system for some, but they will learn from it and get better.”

Replacement fullback Bethan Manners was player of the day, while flankers Elisha Godsiff and Tamara Silcock, plus hooker Steph Mitchell got special mentions.

On Saturday they play Manawatu in Palmerston North with an 11.35am kick off.

Liam Sluiter was the best of the Rangers’ players on Saturday. Photo: Shuttersport.

Rangers lose unbeaten record

Rangers AFC will have to wait at least another week before getting their hands on the Nelson division one football title after losing to Tahuna in Nelson on Saturday.

The previously-unbeaten Marlborough team turned in what player-coach Tore Waechter described as their “worst game of the season” to go down 3-2 to a side they were well-favoured to overcome.

Sitting seven points clear of their nearest rival heading into yesterday’s game, three points would have seen Rangers declared champions with two rounds remaining. Now they must dispose of Nelson College next week, also in Nelson, if they are to wrap up the title prematurely.

Saturday’s game began positively for Rangers. In control early they scored after 15 minutes through Tana Connor-McClean following a superb cross from Liam Sluiter and appeared in control.

However, the home side, who employed a long-ball tactic to their big striker, were on level terms at halftime.

A few changes at the break saw Rangers come out and play their best football of the match, a period of dominance they were unable to turn into goals.

The next goal was scored by Tahuna, who capitalised on a defensive error, then they added their third soon after with a powerful header.

Rangers’ player-of-the-day Liam Sluiter scored with 10 minutes to go, offering hope of salvaging a draw and maintaining a winning roll, but although they hammered away they were unable to equalise.

Waechter said he felt his side, apart from Sluiter, were “not really up for it” and described the result as “a good learning curve”.

Meanwhile, the Liquid Action BV Bullets women’s side served up a veritable feast of goals at Little Wembley, in Nelson, on Saturday.

BV applied sustained pressure from the kick-off as they registered an 11-0 victory. Erin Mustey scored at the three-minute mark, in a high lob that bounced over the keeper’s reach. Leonie Marshall followed suit exactly two minutes later which set the tone for the first half, with a further six goals before the half-time whistle – two to Tiana Williams, two to Tessa Hyland, and one apiece to Destiny Aires and Lucy Martin.

In the second half BV maintained dominance and secured a further three goals – one for Riley Preece and another two for the prolific Williams.

The midfield was dominant in possession, creating multiple opportunities for the forwards. The backline was resolutely solid, leaving few attacking opportunities for Nelson College.

Coach Ian Thomas recognised “strong games from Eliza Bickerton, Alicia McLeod and Destiny Aires, plus player of the day Hannah Martin.”

With two games remaining in their season, BV are in contention to take second in the division and are still looking to top the scoring charts, with an impressive cumulative tally of 74 goals from 13 games.

MBC centre Carter Aitken dots down against Otago BHS on Wednesday. Photo: Peter Jones.

MBC under-15 rugby side faced tough rivals

The Marlborough Boys’ College under-15 team finished their 2020 Invitation Tournament on a high with a win in their final match at Lansdowne Park on Thursday.

The three-day tournament involved the host team, plus age group rivals Christchurch BHS, Otago BHS and St Thomas of Canterbury.

After losing 36-7 to a highly-rated CBHS side on Tuesday, then going down 31-15 to Otago BHS the following day, MBC put their game together yesterday to down St Thomas 41-17.

With their three rivals playing together as a team each week in age group competitions, while MBC were chosen from various sides, the home side struggled early on for cohesion, but improved as the tournament went on.

The team management pinpointed three outstanding players.

Midfield back Cooper Roberts scored in two of the three games and was a constant threat with the ball in hand and strong in the defensive line.

First five Hugh Robinson produced an outstanding tactical kicking display across the whole tournament. He organised all of the back attack and steered the team round the park with his leadership and game management skills.

Open side flanker Will Flynn had tackled himself to a standstill by the last day after practically playing three full games in a row against three of the strongest schools in the South Island.

No 8 Jack Burdon popped up in all the right places, making a number of key defensive tackles that saved certain tries. He was an excellent support player and made a number of tackle busts.

 

Results:

Day 1

Lost to Christchurch BHS 36-7 (Half time 14-7) Tries: Archie Dillon. Conversion: Hugh Robinson.

Day 2

Lost to Otago BHS 31-15 (Half time 19-5). Tries: Wayden Smith, Cooper Roberts, Carter Aiken.

Day 3

Beat St Thomas’s of Canterbury 41-17. Tries: Cooper Roberts 2, Kaloa Moala Fotu 2, Wayden Smith, Hugh Robinson, Jack Bennett. Conversions: Hugh Robinson 3.

Jade Otway had a superb weekend, winning all her matches. Photo: Peter Jones.

Tasman tennis team in action

Tasman’s top tennis talent held their own at the South Island Teams event played at Wilding Park, Christchurch on August 29-30.

Teams from Canterbury, Canterbury Country, Otago and Tasman contested the event which ran on Saturday and Sunday.

Representing Marlborough in the Tasman team were Jade Otway, Hamish Morrow and Hamish McRae.

Jade Otway was the star of the weekend winning all six of her matches.

First up on Saturday, Tasman lost 4-8 to the host side, Canterbury: Otway beat Ruby Young 6-3 6-0 combined with Simon Phillips in the mixed to claim a 7-5, 7-6 victory. Morrow and McRae teamed up in the men’s double, but went down 5-7, 0-6.

Tasman also had a tough battle during their second game on Saturday, losing 8-4 to Otago. Otway went two-from-two again, beating Ayesha Horley 6-1, 6-0 and then teaming up with Morrow to take out the mixed 6-2, 6-0. McRae went down to Mitchell Sizemore in a third set tiebreaker 5-7, 0-6, 10-5.

On Sunday, Tasman won three of the four doubles to come back and beat Canterbury Country by one set after matches were tied at 6-6.

Otway was again in top form, downing Tessa Mccann 7-6, 6-0 then taking out her mixed with Zac Lyttle 6-4, 6-4.

Morrow claimed a vital win in the singles, beating Rhys Cromie 6-2, 6-3, and then combined with Simon Phillips in the top doubles to clinch the win over Country and finish the weekend on a high, the pair winning 7-6, 6-0.

Harlequins defender Katie Cunningham plucks the ball out of the air during her side’s match with Tokomaru on Tuesday. Photo: Peter Jones.

Netballers prepare for playoffs

The big question on everyone’s lips as the top four premier netball teams approach tonight’s semi finals is, “how do you stop Tokomaru?”.

The Picton-based club have set the pace since the outset of this COVID-abbreviated season and the ease with which they disposed of one of their main rivals last week at Stadium 2000 suggests the answer to the previous question has not yet been found.

With the four semi finalists confirmed last week, Tuesday’s games were just about pride and momentum leading into play-off time.

While Toko obviously have plenty of both, judging by their 57-35 win over Harlequins, SMOG, their rivals in next Tuesday’s semi, lost impetus, going down 57-55 to the vastly-improved Marlborough Girls’ College outfit.

The night’s third match saw a brave effort from Awatere come up short as they went down to Pelorus 54-41 after dominating the early stages.

Pelorus will meet Harlequins in the other semi final, the fact the sides are tied on points after two rounds indicating the expected closeness of this match-up.

The Quins will go away and regroup after last week’s effort and, as they invariably do, come back stronger next week.

They struggled to restrict Toko’s scoring, losing both the first and second quarters by seven goals as the Picton side put up 37 shots to Quins’ 21.

Despite regular goal attack Gemma Hika sitting this one out, Toko were well-served in the shooting circle by Dana Wilson and the formidable Haze Tepuia, with 91 percent shooting.

Defensively they continue to impress, Eden Te Huki, Chloe Devir and Michaela Boaz part of a line-up that went unchanged for the whole match.

Defender Katie Cunningham impressed as a second half sub for Quins, Stacey Hopkins shot accurately and Simone Pedersen showed her full range of skills with handy stints at both wing attack and goal attack.

The match of the evening was undoubtedly the first encounter, which went right down to the wire.

The students signed off their 2020 season with an exclamation mark, hanging tough to get the result despite a late SMOG comeback.

In this game of swings and roundabouts each side enjoyed periods of dominance, MGC holding a seven-goal lead at one stage in the third quarter.

However, that was reduced to two by the time the final stanza began and, with defence dominating proceedings, each goal became crucial as time ticked by. With possession evenly shared SMOG went on a run to edge ahead by one with six minutes remaining, but the students were not to be denied, shooter Taila Town landing a couple of crucial goals to get the job done.

Their defensive pairing of Taryn Breen and skipper Mya Wiapo was again outstanding, along with middie Anika Moetaua and the returning Fiaalii Solomona.

SMOG have a major hurdle in front of them if they are to tip over Toko, but have the big-match experience to do just that, in the shape of defenders Bonnie Morris and Karli Murphy, Katie Bradley and Anna Thomas, plus reliable shooters Kate Gaudin and Anna Gardiner.

Awatere began their final match of the season as if they had a train to catch, leading 17-7 early in the second quarter. However, Pelorus introduced key shooter Paige Lovell at that stage and the game changed. Lovell landed 13 goals as the Tussocks’ intensity waned, bringing her side right back into a game that seemed to be slipping away.

By halftime Awatere led 24-23, but that was as close as they got thereafter, a 17-4 third quarter firmly shutting the gate on their hopes of a final night upset, although they fought to the finish with a tight fourth quarter.

Lovell was obviously a key figure in this one, her return from injury providing composure and experience under the hoop. Also returning from injury was Awatere “spark plug” Nicole Witterick, the mobile middie lifting her team mates.

Laura Murphy, Kelsie Fitzpatrick and Oriana Houra also shone for Pelorus, while Harriet Ryan, Kim Andrews and Ashley Childs stood out for the Tussocks.

Scores:

Marlborough Girls’ College NZ King Salmon 57 (Taila Town 27/36, Fiaalii Solomona 30/42) SMOG Good Home 55 (Kate Gaudin 21/26, Anna Gardiner 34/40). Quarter scores (winning team first): 14-18, 14-11, 18-15, 11-11.

Pelorus Edridge Contracting 54 (Olivia Pinkerton 11/16, Courtney Avery 3/10, Paige Lovell 40/52) Awatere 41 (Aimee Jones 34/56, Ashley Childs 7/14). Quarter scores: 6-13, 17-11, 17-4, 14-13.

Tokomaru Crafar Crouch Picton 57 (Haze Tepuia 42/46, Dana Wilson 15/25) Harlequins New World 35 (Stacey Hopkins 16/20, Lauren Murray 11/17, Simone Pedersen 8/16). Quarter scores: 15-8, 14-7, 13-10, 15-10.

Standings after round robin play: Tokomaru 30, Harlequins 20, Pelorus 20, SMOG 15, MGC 13, Awatere 1.

Semifinals: Tokomaru v SMOG; Harlequins V Pelorus.

Outstanding No 8 Viliami Napa’a heads for the tryline and his second touchdown. Photo: Peter Jones.

MBC get job done

The Marlborough Boys’ College First XV got the job done against Roncalli Combined on the college front field on Saturday, but would not be entirely proud of their workmanship.

The South Canterbury-based crew put on a gutsy display, making the home side battle gamely for a 26-5 bonus point victory, although MBC made hard work of it, especially in the first spell.

With several changes to their regular top line-up, the Falcons struggled for continuity and rhythm on attack during the early stages, with the visitors scoring first after 20 minutes.

Five minutes later, MBC No 8 Viliama Napa’a, one of the outstanding figures in the game, burst over from close range, Kyren Taumoefolau converting to give the home side a lead they never relinquished.

A second try to Napa’a, this time a spectacular solo effort from 40m out, widened the home side’s advantage after eight minutes of the second spell, then replacement winger Cooper Roberts, another standout, sliced through to score from a back move.

The introduction of skipper Monu Moli late in the piece lifted the home side and it was the big prop himself who scored MBC’s bonus point try, proving unstoppable from 5m out.

MBC’s loose forward trio of Napa’a, Toby McLeod and William MacKenzie were outstanding, the latter claiming a string of turnovers when the home side were under the pump. Midfielder Jake Pacey and replacement first five Hugh Robinson were others to impress.

Next week MBC play their final round robin game, also at home, against Mid Canterbury Combined.

MBC lie in 11th position on the ladder, aiming for a win next week to push them up to ninth or 10th and a home fixture in the ensuing play-offs.

Scores: MBC 26 (Viliami Napa’a 2, Cooper Roberts, Monu Moli tries, Kyren Taumoefolau 3 con) Roncalli Combined 5 (Angus Jensen try). HT 7-5.

Other scores: St Thomas 31 Shirley 27; Nelson College 48 Lincoln 7; St Bede’s 62 Mid Canterbury 19; Timaru 31 Waimea 11; Christchurch BHS 20 Rangiora 15; St Andrew’s 33 Christ’s College 31.

The victorious Central Wolves squad. Photo: Peter Jones.

Wolves win Knockout Cup 

Central Wolves had to call on all their skill and experience to claim Marlborough football’s Knockout Cup at A and P Park on Saturday.

They fought their way to a 2-1 victory in the final, taking three quarters of the match to get the better of gritty clubmates Central Buccaneers, who led 1-0 at half time.

With a steady breeze at the backs Buccaneers struck against the run of play after 10 minutes. The ball fell to the feet of striker Thom Hall who calmly sent it into the top corner of Wolves’ net from 25m out.

Registering an early lead seemed to lift confidence among the Buccaneers, who frustrated their rivals with a series of timely tackles and crucial interceptions, not allowing Wolves to settle.

Winger Shane Evans looked most likely to score for Wolves, three sweetly-hit shots being blocked by keeper Hugh Straker.

As the half wore on both sides created several opportunities to alter the scoreline but, when the halftime whistle blew, Buccaneers continued to hold a single goal advantage.

After the break Wolves, with the wind at their backs, pressed further forward and were rewarded with an equaliser after 15 minutes when Scott Wilkinson pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the box and drilled it home.

Five minutes later they went ahead. A high-bouncing ball in the Buccaneers’ box was inadvertently handled by a defender and Steve McCaa stepped up to convert the resulting penalty.

Although some half chances were created at either end, neither side looked likely to add to their score before the final whistle blew.

The much-improved Buccaneers side can be proud of their efforts. Hall ran hard all day up front and scored a stunning goal, he was well supported by Nate Lovell, Scott Hannan and Ryan Palmer were skilful in midfield while Marina Doncevic, Jake Rounthwaite-West, Jake Arnesen and the uncompromising Jamie Gilbert defended manfully.

The Wolves’ seasoned back four of Paddy Stephens, Andrew McCaa, Nick Rayner and Richie Marsden were also well-organised, restricting Buccaneers to a minimum of scoring opportunities. Keeper Amon McGregor made a couple of handy saves while directing his troops constantly from the back.

Matt Stretch, Wilkinson, Jono McCormick, Sam Boyce, Evans and Steve McCaa all played their part in midfield and up front, holding the ball up cleverly when required and producing probing passes on occasion.

The scoreline probably represented the flow of the match, Wolves having the lion’s share of possession, and taking their two chances well, but being unable to completely shake off a feisty opponent who battled to the very end.

Wolves’ spokesman Jono McCormick said his side “made a slow start, but persevered after going down 1-0 early”.

“We looked to our bench early and that made a difference, while Scotty Wilkinson’s hard running was a factor, keeping the boys’ heads up, along with our strong backline.

“It has been a good season. We incorporated players from two teams [to make the Wolves side] and once we learned to play together it all began to fall into place.”

Score: Central Wolves 2 (Scott Wilkinson, Steve McCaa – pen) Central Buccaneers 1 (Thom Hall). HT: 1-0 Buccaneers.

Other results:

KO Shield – Rangers Masters 5 Trojans Spartans 2.

KO Bowl – Rangers Clubs of Marlborough 4 Rangers Development 1.

KO Plate – Picton Crow Tavern.

Meanwhile, also at A and P Park, the top two sides in the Nelson division one women’s league turned on a thrilling encounter.

BV Bullets hosted Richmond Foxes, runaway league leaders, and although the visitors prevailed 2-0, the home side made them work throughout for their victory.

BV produced some superb passages of passing and creative flair, which went unrewarded throughout the first half and were unfortunate to concede just before the break.

Foxes took a shot at goal which keeper Taz Gilbert initially saved, but she was injured in the process and, when the ball came loose, Foxes’ Jenny Harvey slipped it over the line.

Bullets had their chance early in the second stanza, a flying shot from Lauren Sloan whistling past the mouth of goal, followed soon after by a strike from Tiana Williams which flew just wide of the mark.

However, Foxes fired back and a beautifully-weighted shot from Annie Brown nestled in the net to make it 2-0.

Undeterred, Bullets continued to attack, Tess Hyland and Destiny Aires going close as both sides showed 100 percent commitment and physicality.

BV coach Ian Thomas said, “we played a better passing game, a better strategic game, but were unfortunately unrewarded.”

He singled out Erin Mustey at the back, Aires on the left wing and Eliza Bickerton for special mention.

Despite the loss BV remain the highest scoring team in the division – with 62 goals under their belt, and three games still to play.

At Athletic Park on Saturday Rangers AFC continued on their merry way in the Nelson division one men’s league.

The unbeaten leaders registered a 4-1 win over Nelson Suburbs, scoring twice in each half.

Carl Connor-McClean got both first half goals, the second from the penalty spot after he was fouled in the box.

The visitors clawed one back against the run of play just before halftime and could have had a second but for a good save from keeper Dan Diamond.

With the wind at their backs in the second spell Rangers pressed forward and were rewarded with goals to Tana Connor-McClean and Martin Delgado, who scored with his first touch after coming off the bench.

Youngsters Josh and Liam Clamp made their first team debut late in the match.

Next up for Rangers is a trip to Nelson next weekend for a meeting with Tahuna, knowing a win can wrap up the league title with two games remaining.

The victorious MBC First XI. Photo: Supplied.

College teams go unbeaten in Nelson

Both Marlborough college hockey teams at last week’s South Island championship tournament in Nelson went undefeated, but only one was able to claim overall victory.

The Marlborough Boys’ College First XI took out top place in the boys grade, while the Marlborough Girls’ College crew, who put together a string of draws, ended up fifth, despite never losing a game.

MBC beat Timaru Boys’ High School 3-0 in Wednesday’s final.

They scored a goal in each of the first three quarters, top scorer Wade Sweeting opening their account, followed by goals to Sam Hamilton and Logan Lowther.

Coach Grant McMillan said MBC came out stronger in the decider and applied consistent pressure throughout the first quarter to lead 1-0.

“The second quarter saw our defence tested but the boys managed to hold strong and score again against the run of play to be up 2-0 at half time.

“The second half was hard-fought with the boys providing another goal through Logan to go 3-0 up and seal the victory with a full team performance being the hallmark of a solid final. Really exciting stuff for the boys!”

MBC were unbeaten over the three days, scoring 26 goals and conceding just one. Sweeting ended with 14 goals for the tournament, eight clear of the second-top scorer.

They beat Timaru 3-0 and Garin College 8-0 on Monday, Nayland 5-1 and Garin 7-0 (semifinal) on Tuesday before contesting the final.

The MBC team comprised: Patrick Neal (c), Wade Sweeting, Gus Varney, Jack Unwin, Logan Lowther, Sam Hamilton, Issac Brydon, Liam O’Connell, Luke Adams, Hugh Pearce, Lachlan Mackie, Declan Phibbs, Thomas Van Asch, Leighton le Sueur, Sean Moran.

Meanwhile the MGC side had an exciting finish to an undefeated week of hockey, beating Nayland College in a penalty shootout to bag fifth place.

Coach Amber Boyce said “the girls played their best game of the tournament on the final day, delivering a faster pace and cleaner style of hockey.

“Defence was clinical as the girls shut down the opposition’s key player. It was a really strong performance with all players stepping up.”

The game ended 0-0, with a penalty shootout ensuing.

Boyce said goalkeeper Mya Gane had prepared well after the shootout experience at last year’s tournament and dominated, saving three of Nayland’s five shots.

Charlotte Westend and Sophie Rowbottom scored for MGC to level the scores at 2-2, creating a sudden-death situation, before Gane made another save then Westend drew the keeper and slotted the winning goal.

Earlier MGC had drawn 0-0 with Christchurch GHS and Villa Maria, then 1-1 with Nayland, before downing Middleton Grange 4-0 in the play-offs leading into the thrilling final.

MGC could consider themselves unlucky not to finish higher, especially with Christchurch GHS, who they drew with, going on to reach the final, where they lost in a penalty shootout to Cashmere.

The MGC team: Mia Armstrong, Grace Calder, Hannah Chapman, Riley Foote, Mya Gane, Nikita Gapper, Georgia Green, Delyth James-Sitters, Lulu Judge, Georgia Marfell, Eleanhor O’Connell, Sophie Rowbottom, Aaliyah Watene, Holly Watts, Charlotte Westend, Sam Williams.

The victorious Central division one side. Photo: Shuttersport.

It’s a Blues festival at Lansdowne

The Central Blues are back on top of the Marlborough rugby roost.

Ove the past few seasons the Blenheim-based club have had to sit back and watch as Waitohi assumed the predominant position, the Picton crew taking out the 2018 and 2019 finals.

However, on Saturday at Lansdowne Park, the Blues bounced back, and they did it in style.

They comprehensively beat Waitohi 31-10 in the division one showpiece, after seeing their division two side account for Awatere 36-24 in the earlier decider.

Both sides were unbeaten throughout round-robin play, setting the pace from day one of this, unusual, COVID-impacted season.

The division one final had all the ingredients of a thrilling encounter, set to match last year’s decider, and when Central turned at halftime holding just a narrow 12-3 lead after having the wind at their backs for 40 minutes, it seemed that would be the case.

However, the Blues had other ideas. Through punishing defence they maintained pressure on the Tohis, keeping them away from their favoured attacking zones, while looking for counterattack opportunities.

The first came on the 50 minute mark. A loose Waitohi pass near halfway was snapped by Central who found acres of space on the left, allowing winger Solomoni Vecena to touch down.

Despite this giving the Blues a 17-3 advantage, Waitohi knew if they could establish field position and score next they were right back in the contest.

However, as hard as they tried, that position and points never came, Central’s defensive line and breakdown work denying their rivals a chance to control proceedings.

And when the Blues got within striking range they were lethal. The final hammer blows were landed in a five-minute burst through touchdowns to Peter Vakaloa (after 65 minutes) and Nigel Satherley (70 minutes), both from close range.

A late try to the Tohis underlined their fighting spirit, but it was the Blues’ day. As they have done all season they combined forward and back attack seamlessly, providing threats all over the paddock.

Jesse MacDonald, Braden Stewart, Timo Vakaloa, Matt McCormick and Sitaleki Baker were formidable ball-carriers up front, while firtst five Liam Duncan, midfielders Jake Cresswell and Timoci Tavatavanawai, plus Vecena and Satherley showed pace and power out wide.

The Central division two side downed Awatere in a thrilling final. Photo: Shuttersport.
The Central division two side downed Awatere in a thrilling final. Photo: Shuttersport.

Waitohi, who looked slightly jaded after going into overtime to battle past Renwick last week, were well served by locks Andre Hebberd and Dylan Burns, flanker Taine Cragg-Love and evergreen No 8 Jimmy Giles. Halfback Karlos Tautari and first five Tim O’Malley were constant threats but their outsides were too often caught moving laterally.

In such a bizarre year it is perhaps fitting that the local rugby showpiece took place at a partly-deserted park.

Current Covid restrictions mean the division one and two finals were contested in front of separate bubbles limited to 100 spectators, a far cry from previous club finals where hordes of parochial supporters cheered their favourites on.

A strong first half effort, playing into the gusty breeze, allowed Central to dictate terms in the division two final. The home side led 15-12 at half time, and used the wind cleverly in the second spell to keep the gritty Tussock Jumpers at bay.

They led 31-12 through the middle part of the second spell, before Awatere made a late surge, two tries to replacement Sam Lunn pushing them close, but not close enough.

Outstanding for the victors was No 8 Logan Robinson, centre George Millar, winger Harry Boyce and first five Ra Tamati, whose intelligent kicking game dominated the second half.

Lunn stood out for the Tussocks, along with No 8 Flynn Struthers, loosie Wilson Meadowcroft, first five Grae Gilbert and midfielder Ofa Tuipuluto.

Scores

Division one final

Central 31 (Timo Vakaloa, Liam Duncan, Peter Vakaloa, Nigel Satherley, Solomoni Vecena tries, Mitch Smith 3 con) Waitohi 10 (Tim O’Malley try, con, Corey Bovey con). HT: 12-3

Division two final

Central 36 (George Millar, Ono Levu Temo, Harry Mackenzie, Logan Robinson tries, Ra Tamati 2 con, 4 pen) Awatere 24 (Sam Lunn 2 tries, Grae Gilbert 4 pen con). HT 15-12 Central

 

They said it …

Billy Guyton (Central coach): “I felt our leadership group was really good today, they kept things calm and trusted everything they were doing.

“The boys did the basic things well, holding our feet, looking for the space nice and early … they have improved a lot since the start of the season. They are playing more together and understand the game better … learning the basics on why you are trying to do something in the game. They already knew how, it was just having the confidence to do it all at the same time … realising that if you do your own job well it makes life a lot easier.”

Braden Stewart (Central captain): “I didn’t think we had enough points on the board at halftime … we had a few opportunities that we didn’t capitalise on but our defence was what we were most proud of today.

“We have really enjoyed each other’s company this year, worked hard at training … nutting out what we need to work on. But it’s just the keenness of the boys really, everyone can’t wait to get into it.”

Jimmy Giles (Waitohi player/coach): “At halftime we felt we were in a decent place, not comfortable though. We had done quite a bit of work into the wind to restrict them to 12 [points] and I felt that was enough to be very competitive, but they showed how good a team they are, putting us under pressure, creating opportunities and taking them. Hat’s off to Central, they played the perfect game plan really.”

James Marzola (Central division two captain): We just believed in our structure today … the young fellas coming into the side from the under-19s bought into it from the start of the season and we have just chipped away.

“We knew [victory] would come today if we protected the ball a bit better in the second half and were patient, and that’s what happened.

“Big ups to Awatere though, that was our most physical game of the year.”

The Queen Charlotte Relay has been staged since 1982. Photo: Supplied.

Iconic Sounds relay cancelled

The 2020 Queen Charlotte Relay will not go ahead.

For the first time, the iconic running event through the Marlborough Sounds has had to be cancelled.

The relay was scheduled for Saturday, September 19 but, given the high level of uncertainty as to what alert level the country will be in at that time the event has been called off.

Long-time organiser Les McKay said he had discussed with a number of prospective officials their concerns on Covid 19 “and the risks they would take [if the relay went ahead] and the fact we cannot manage their risk to the level required”.

“There is still a lot of work to do on [organising] the relay and this is now put into a very narrow time frame.

“Based on the information I have and looking at the history of Covid 19 levels, I strongly recommended to the race committee to cancel for 2020 … I am very aware of the disappointment levels in the community but one has to be realistic.

“On a personal level I am disappointed as this is the first time the relay has had to be cancelled and this was my last one as organiser. Bring on 2021.”

The long-standing Queen Charlotte Relay began in 1982 and has been contested annually without a break. The course has had only minor changes over time, with teams coming from all over New Zealand to compete and have a fun day.

The event is a five-person relay starting at Waitohi Domain, Picton and finishing in Havelock outside the Havelock Hotel. The relay was for runners only until 2002 when a social walkers’ grade was introduced.