Blockbusting second-five Nikora Ewe scored two tries in Martinborough’s big win. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
Gladstone made to work hard in the wet
The semifinalists and home advantage are confirmed for the Tui Cup. Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE reviews the weekend’s premier club rugby.
Martinborough and Gladstone will host the semifinals in the Tui Cup, while Eketahuna confirmed its place in the top four after the penultimate round of matches on Saturday.
Martinborough will go into their bye weekend full of confidence after moving to the head of the standings with a 51-19 drubbing of Marist on the Memorial Park turf.
Playing with a strong southerly in the first half, Marty dominated from kickoff and rarely gave Marist a look in.
Tipi Haira opened the scoring after two minutes with an easy penalty in front. Four minutes later Nathan Kapene, who had an outstanding game at No 8, crossed for the first of his two tries, on the end of a backline move set up by a beautiful cut-out pass from first-five Tim Priest.
Marist had barely managed to get out of their half, but were next to score after 15 minutes when regular halfback Paddy Gluck, who started the match at first-five, intercepted a pass on his 10-metre line and brushed off the tackle of Nathan Hunt to register his side’s first points.
The rest of the half belonged to Martinborough, with tries to fullback Alex Priest, bruising second-five Nikora Ewe, who scored twice in five minutes, and winger Reece Calkin putting the game out of the reach of Marist.
Kapene capped his impressive performance with his second try after 52 minutes.
Marist then had their best spell of the game and were rewarded for their sustained pressure with a try to big front-rower Sam Siose.
Martinborough halfback Chance Ropiha, who came back on to the field as an injury replacement after being substituted, and was playing at loose forward, was next to score, with an easy 15m run after some powerful forward exchanges.
Replacement lock Fale Solomoana, who made a big impact in his limited time on the field, scored Marist’s third try.
But Marty had the final say and they saved their best until last.
Alex Priest counterattacked from his own line, and three passes later Haira sprinted 40m to dot down under the posts.
Although the backs reaped the rewards, much of the credit for the victory must go to the hardworking Martinborough forward park that dominated the scrums for most of the match and provided good-quality ball from the second phases for the backline to utilise.
No 8 Kapene and blindside flanker Himiona Haira were outstanding on attack and defence, while in the backs Tim Priest controlled play well with a superb kicking game with the wind in the first half. Tipi Haira, firstly at centre and then at halfback, had an excellent game, while Ewe and Alex Priest proved a handful for the Marist defence.
Captain and openside flanker James Goodger and Gluck were the best of a struggling Marist side.
Meanwhile, at Gladstone, the home side had to work hard in wet and heavy conditions to get the better of Greytown and secure home advantage for the semifinals.
Two converted tries, the first to lock Andrew Smith, and the second to centre Cameron Hayton from a cross kick pass by first-five Jeremy Osborne, had Gladstone take a 14-0 lead in the first half.
That is the way it stayed for the rest of the game.
Gladstone coach Steve Thompson said his team was under pressure in the first quarter but got up on defence and survived, continuing to move the ball in tricky conditions.
The defending champions did suffer two worrying injury blows, with veteran frontrower Richard Puddy injuring a quad muscle, and hooker Scott Day sustaining what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury.
A bonus point for Gladstone next Saturday would have them finish with the number one seeding for the semifinals.
And Eketahuna guaranteed their place in the semifinals with a scrappy 10-0 home win over a gallant East Coast.
First-five Josh Pepperell scored the only points of an uninspiring first half, with a penalty into the wind.
A try to flanker Johan van Vliet, converted by Pepperell, in the second half sealed the win.
Eke spent much of the second half with only 13 players on the field, being on the wrong end of four yellow cards dished out by referee Mike Wakefield.
Winger Daniel Lochhead was outstanding for the victors, strong on defence and dangerous on attack.
Fullback Jack Wakeling and halfback Bryan Arnold were the best for the Coasties.
[home teams first]
Marist 19 [Paddy Gluck, Sam Siose, Fale Solomoana tries; James Goodger 2 cons] Martinborough 51 [Nathan Kapene , Alex Priest, Nikora Ewe , Reece Calkin, Chance Ropiha tries, Tipi Haira try, pen, 4 cons] HT 5-32.
Gladstone 14 [Andrew Smith, Cameron Hayton tries; Jack Eschenbach 2 cons] Greytown 0 HT 14-0.
Eketahuna 10 [Johan van Vliet try, Josh Pepperell pen, con] East Coast 0 HT 3-0
Standings after July 6 [games played in brackets]
Martinborough 46 , Gladstone 42 , Greytown 36 , Eketahuna 33 , Carterton 21 , Marist 21 , East Coast 7 
Senior Reserve scores
Greytown 12 Carterton 6; Tuhirangi 20 Puketoi 17
Eketahuna 26 Martinborough 14; Pioneer Old Boys 32 Marist 10
Gladstone 29 East Coast 10; Featherston Bye