Steve Thompson stands alongside the sign placed in front of the domain named in his honour. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
By Gary Caffell
Steve Thompson had plenty to savour on Saturday.
The longtime head coach of Gladstone’s premier division rugby team had the playing field which has been such a focal point of his recreational activity over the past four decades officially named the Steve Thompson Domain and a few hours later his side maintained their unbeaten record in the 2017 Tui Cup series with a 25-20 victory over defending champions Greytown.
Never one to seek personal accolades, Thompson thoroughly deserved every tribute which came his way.
A detailed examination of his service to the Gladstone club since he joined their under-21 side as a player in 1975 would probably fill a book.
Suffice to say it has been considerable and involved not only playing and coaching but administrative duties, fundraising and groundsman.
And, what’s more, he has also found the time to serve the Wairarapa-Bush union with distinction as well, both in the playing and coaching spheres.
Appropriately Gladstone also held it’s old-timer’s day on Saturday so, not surprisingly, there was a big crowd on hand to watch the battle with old foes Greytown and the majority of those present got the result they wanted.
There were more than a few nervous moments for them, however, with most of them coming in a first half which saw Gladstone have the edge in territory and possession but Greytown make the better of their scoring opportunities and lead 15-8 at the break.
The visitors recorded tries through wing AJ Manley and No 8 Tavita Isaac with Nick Olson landing a penalty and a conversion while Gladstone scored a try through flanker Bryn Henderson and Brad Griffith kicked one penalty.
The main problem for Gladstone through the opening 40 minutes was a frustrating trend of either making basic handling or passing errors or conceding penalties just when the goal line beckoned but whatever coach Thompson had to say to them during the interval worked the oracle as they were a completely different team in the second half.
In fact, it was pretty much a complete turnaround with Gladstone stringing phases together with impressive precision and Greytown struggling to get any continuity into their game because of regular turnovers.
From 15-8 down Gladstone not only made up the leeway but raced out to a 25-15 advantage.
Flanker Scott Harpham scored the first try, which was converted from the sideline by Griffith, and then replacement winger Matthew Macrae bashed his way to the try-line on a spectacular 30m run.
Griffith again converted from well out and with Tim Griffith soon after kicking a penalty the home side were clearly in the box seat.
Greytown did have the last say on the scoreboard after a superb Tavita Isaac break and kick ahead ended with Manly winning the race for the ball over the goal line, enough to give Greytown a bonus point but not soon enough for them to have any chance of spoiling Steve Thompson’s party.
Individually there were a number of standouts, Andrew McLean, Andrew Smith, John Stevenson and Bryn Henderson up front for Gladstone and Tavita Isaac, Chaz Matthews, Regan Pope and Kurt Simmonds likewise for Greytown.
In the backs a couple of young first-fives in Brad Griffith (Gladstone) and Raniera Peterson (Greytown) enhanced their reputations and the experience of Kingi Kaiwai (Greytown) and Cameron Hayton (Gladstone) in midfield was always evident.
In other Tui Cup matches Pioneer moved to a clear second on the points table with a 30-13 win over Marist at Memorial Park, Carterton scored a surprisingly comfortable 37-22 win over Martinborough in a game which saw referee Graeme Reisima control in 200th premier division club fixture and Eketahuna broke their “duck” with a 41-22 beating of the still winless East Coast.
Provisional competition points: Gladstone 18, Pioneer 17, Greytown 14, Carterton 12, Marist 11, Eketahuna 7, Martinborough 2, East Coast 0.