E’stel Tasman Trophy rugby made a long-awaited return to rugby headquarters at Lansdowne Park on Thursday night, with Marlborough rivals Waitohi and Central doing battle under lights.
After a traditionally tight battle, it was the Tohis whose Easter Eggs tasted better after they completed a 28-5 bonus point win to stay on top of the sub-union standings, alongside East Coast.
In a scoring spree at the Seddon Domain, the Coasters got their nose ahead on the line to pip Renwick 34-32. The game was locked up 17-17 at halftime and the visitors led by five with four minutes to go before the Coasters grabbed victory with a late converted try to their player of the day, midfielder Ben Filipo.
At Lansdowne Park, the first half belonged almost exclusively to Waitohi, Central only crossing over the halfway stripe at kick off time following three Tohi tries.
A fiery and accurate forward display set up touchdowns for ever-impressive Tongan international fullback Tuli Paea, equally sharp halfback Sosaia Tokai and busy midfielder Daniel Samita. If Waitohi made mistakes they invariably happened close to the Blues’ line, leaving the home team unable to exit any great distance.
Up front flanker Taine Cragg-Love continued to impress, as did hooker Taimi Fangatua, new prop Duane Aholelei, and lock Jack Evans. Corey Bovey directed play well in the 10 jersey, his goalkicking again at a high percentage, while midfielder Tiare Tautari defended well, especially against the ever-dangerous Central centre Timoci Tavatavanawai who rarely saw the ball in the first 40.
The second half was a different story, Central playing with more fire and purpose, led by flanker Braden Stewart, skipper Reyne Volvaola, hooker Jesse MacDonald, plus replacements Peter Vakaloa, Mitchell Boyce and Francis Roebeck.
However, it took them 70 minutes to get on the board, surges by Stewart and Tavatavanawai earning the field position for Vakaloa to burst over.
Just when it seemed Waitohi were going to run out of time to snag a fourth try, Bovey intercepted a hopeful long pass and sprinted 80m to bag the bonus point.
He duly converted to seal a deserved win for a team who have quickly gone from having barely enough players to start the season, to genuine championship contenders.
Player/coach Jimmy Giles was happy to take away five points against “a very good Central side”, especially as Waitohi have struggled to get a full complement to training this week.
“We had good structure in the first half, although we left a few scoring opportunities out there.
“In the second half we had to grind it out as Central came back but we were really happy to get the bonus point try from Bovey.
“I’m rapt with the way the boys played … it gives us an incentive to enjoy the long weekend and hit Nelson next week over there.”
Renwick head coach Glenn Blackmore was disappointed not to get the win at Seddon but feels his teams are making steps in the right direction, despite having to deal with a spate of injuries.
“I’m over the moon with the effort and attitude. It was ding-dong battle, tit-for-tat most of the way but we didn’t really have enough ball in the second half and made too many errors at the end to deserve to get the result.
“We are just in that space at the moment of not really knowing how to finish a game off.”
Sam Lunn, the East Coast coach, described it as “really good game of rugby from both teams”. He praised the effort of first five Myles Hamilton and Filipo and the influence of veteran lock Stu Campbell in the final stages.
Waitohi 28 (Tuli Paea, Sosaia Tokai, Daniel Samita, Corey Bovey tries, Bovey 4 con) Central 5 (Peter Vakaloa try). Halftime 21-0.
East Coast 34 Renwick 32 (Dion Nayaran 3, Ty Bampton, Josh Bason tries, Kurt Schollum pen, 2 con). HT 17-17.
Marlborough sub-union standings (provisional): Waitohi 16*, East Coast 16*, Central 10, Renwick 4, Moutere 2* -* team has had a bye.
Other scores: Waimea Old Boys 29-19; Kahurangi 6 Stoke 3.
MBC side win
In the curtain-raiser to tonight’s game at Lansdowne, the Marlborough Boys’ College Falcons downed Aussie school Downlands College, from Queensland 40-19 in a pre-season match.
MBC led 7-5 at halftime through a try to skipper Ollie Lawson, scored immediately after halftime then weathered a comeback from the Aussies who closed the gap to 14-12. However a second try to Lawson, plus touchdowns to Tino Vakaloa, Jaden Eathorne and a late touchdown on the final whistle got the job done.
Impressive for MBC were Lawson, Monu Moli, Tristan Taylor and halfback Ryan McLeod.