Martinborough advanced after a hard-fought win over Greytown. PHOTO/CATHERINE ROSSITER-STEAD
By Gary Caffell
Martinborough will be aiming to break a long drought when they meet Gladstone in the final of the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union’s Tui Cup premier division competition at Memorial Park, Masterton next weekend.
Their hard-fought 18-13 semi-final victory over Greytown in the mud at Greytown on Saturday provides Martinborough the opportunity to take away the championship for the first time since 1991.
And at the same time, it ended the dominance of Greytown who were seeking their third successive premiership title and their fifth in the last six seasons.
The other semi-final was more lop-sided with Gladstone, who have made the pace through most of the season, beating Carterton 27-5 in a game transferred from Gladstone, due to the heavy state of the grounds, to the artificial turf at Memorial Park.
Martinborough coach James Bruce identified the tenacity of the defence as perhaps the main catalyst to their victory over Greytown.
Up 11-0 at halftime after having the elements in their favour, Martinborough were pinned deep in their territory over the latter stages of the first half and for long periods in the second, but defended so stoutly that Greytown were always running second on the scoreboard.
“The boys really dug deep defensively, they tackled their hearts out,” Bruce said.
“They [Greytown] threw everything as us but we managed to hold on.”
Not surprisingly considering the conditions the match was pretty much a forward slog with the outside backs on both sides having very little chance to demonstrate their attacking skills.
Outstanding for Martinborough up front was lock Toby Rowlands who was in the thick of everything and there was a lot to like about the astute option taking of first-five Armyn Sanders and the hefty punting of fullback Tipene Haira.
Try scorers for Martinborough were Tim Priest and Kody Cunningham, with Haira kicking two penalties and a conversion.
Greytown might not have finished with the result they wanted but there was also no shortage of endeavour on their part with the second half try scored by one of their better players, inside back Kingi Kaiwai, being a match highlight.
Anybody watching the first 20 minutes of the Gladstone v Carterton semi-final would have put their money on Carterton advancing to the final.
Despite playing into the wind they were constantly on attack with their forwards winning a steady stream of quality possession and their backs, especially midfielders Utah Walker and Lance Stevenson, looking full of running.
Unfortunately for Carterton, however, that early dominance was not turned into points on the board and by halftime Gladstone had not only restored the balance in territory and possession but they had a commanding 20-0 advantage.
From a lineout just inside the Carterton 22 Gladstone lock Andrew McLean made a clean take and by the time the ball was fed back to hooker Richard Puddy on the short side there was virtually no cover defence to be seen.
Puddy scooted over for the try, converted from the sideline by first-five Brad Griffith.
A couple of penalties then took Gladstone’s advantage to 13-0 and on the stroke of halftime came the crushing blow, centre Cameron Hayton pouncing onto a loose ball, speculating it ahead and winning the race to the goal-line.
Griffith missed the first conversion attempt but was given another chance because of an early charge and made no mistake on that occasion.
The question now was whether Carterton could find something extra in the tank to fight their way back into contention in the second half.
They did give themselves some hope when soon after the resumption of play No 8 Lachie McFadzean took a quick tap from a penalty close to the Gladstone line and sent brother Corey McFadzean in for the try.
That was to be to the extent of the Carterton scoring with the Gladstone forwards achieving a semblance of control for the rest of the half, which ensured their lead would not be challenged.
The last scoring act of the game came from them, a converted try sealing what, in the end, was a comfortable victory.
Impressive for Gladstone up front were livewire flanker Nick Griffith, No 8 Eddie Cranston and prop John Stevenson while Inia Katia, especially when he moved from wing to halfback for the second half, was very influential in the backs, both on attack and defence.
First-five Brad Griffith and centre Hayton also had strong games.
For Carterton there was no more committed player than Lachie McFadzean who did sterling work in the lineouts and in general play, and it was a pity for them that midfielders Walker and Stevenson didn’t have greater opportunity to show their wares as they both displayed the ability to pierce the first line of defence.
In the Hodder-Steffert Cup premier reserve semi-finals the top seeds Pioneer and Marist both had wins, Pioneer beating East Coast 45-7, and Marist defeating Eketahuna 20-7.