Waitohi and Moutere celebrated E’stel Tasman Trophy wins on Saturday night – but for vastly different reasons.
The Tohis’ 25-22 victory over East Coast at Endeavour Park in Picton earned them a semifinal spot, while the Magpies’ 28-24 triumph over Renwick, at the Renwick Domain, saw them notch their first win points of the season and move off the bottom of the table.
Both Moutere and the Green Machine came into the game without a win after nine rounds, guaranteeing a desperate battle, and that was how it played out.
The scores were locked 10-10 at the halftime break and when the home side scored almost immediately after the resumption the scene looked set for a Renwick celebration.
But ultimately it was the Moutere forward pack that carried the day, taking control of the game in the second spell with their team facing a stiff breeze.
Tries to hard-working forwards Matt McCormick and Jordan Hart allowed the visitors to get their noses in front, then ill-discipline and inaccuracy from the Green Machine allowed Moutere goalkicker Max Freydell to keep them there as the home side mounted increasingly frantic late attacks.
Locks Michael Leger-Kula and Amco Cassidy, plus flanker Luke Scott were at the heart of the Moutere eight’s effort, along with Hart and McCormick.
However it was the return of influential halfback Ben Finau that put air under the Magpies’ wings. The quick-thinking No 9 took control from the outset, ever alert for opportunities to attack and organizing his troops superbly.
Freydell, in the 10 jersey, was also influential, along with impressive midfielder Aki Kaumavae and elusive fullback Petueli Taufaga.
Renwick were well served by loosies Naisa Taufa, who scored two of their four tries, and Cody Weir. Halfback Jayden Lister continues to impress, while midfielder Michael Vaeno, winger Falaula Fotu-Moala and fullback Michael Dillon always looked dangerous on the break.
Moutere head coach Laurie McGlone was a happy man after the game. “I think the club has really come together,” he said, “there has been support from the division two side, which has really helped us in our preparation for this do-or-die battle.
“It’s the first time we have been able to name 22 players for a long time … the feeling among that team is that we are doing it for each other and that showed through today.
“We have been training week-in, week-out since January 8th so to finally get a win is fantastic for the boys.”
Meanwhile, Waitohi maintained their position as the leading Marlborough-based side in the competition, claiming their sixth win of the season. The Tohis ensured themselves a spot in the Trophy play-offs, as closest pursuers Nelson have a bye during next week’s final round. They will be the sole Marlborough representatives in the semis, with East Coast now too far adrift to challenge for the fourth position.
At halftime on Saturday, a Waitohi win was far from a done deal with the Coasters ahead 12-6.
Waitohi player/coach Jimmy Giles said the match was very even, even suggesting East Coast may have been the better side on the day, the difference being the home side were better at taking their scoring opportunities.
The scoring see-sawed throughout the second half, leaving the visitors ahead 22-18 with three minutes to go before prop Duane Aholelei scored from close range to give his side the lead, and Corey Bovey converted.
Giles said lock Dylan Burns put in a good shift, along with front rowers Manu Mataele, Losi Malimali, Aholelei and hooker Luke Bergman who helped their scrum to dominate their much-vaunted opponents.
Out wide halfback Saia Takai, first five Bovey and fullback Fetuli Paea impressed.
Myles Hamilton scored all East Coast’s points through a try, five penalties and a conversion.
Marist appear to have all but booked top spot for the play-offs, with Waimea Old Boys second and Wanderers third, although the side from Brightwater is well within Waitohi’s sights if they slip up.
Giles said his side, “were not too fussed” who they meet [in the semis].
“Although if we were able to grab that third position it would be a massive feat for the team.”
Next week Renwick play Marist, Moutere meet Wanderers and Central play Stoke, all those games in Marlborough, while Waitohi take on Kahurangi in Riwaka and East Coast play Waimea in Nelson.
Moutere 28 (Aki Kaumavae, Matt McCormick, Jordan Hart tries, Max Freydell 3 pen 2 con) Renwick 24 (Jayden Lister, Mike Vaeno, Naisa Taufa 2 tries, Michael Dillon con, Kurt Schollum con). HT: 10-10
Waitohi 25 (Fetuli Paea, Duane Aholelei, Dylan Norgate tries, Corey Bovey 2 con, 2 pen) East Coast 22 (Myles Hamilton try, 5 pen, con). HT 12-6 East Coast.
Nelson 22 Waimea Old Boys 22
Wanderers 21 Kahurangi 19
Marist 42 Stoke 22
Standings (provisional): Marist 42, Waimea Old Boys 37, Wanderers 32, Waitohi 30, Nelson 26*, East Coast 23, Kahurangi 22, Central 19, Stoke 17, Moutere 7, Renwick 5. * Yet to have a bye.