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Pioneer sneaks narrow win

Conan Gray shows the joy of scoring a try for Pioneer in their 30-27 win over Martinborough. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

By Gary Caffell

The purist would have frowned at the number of turnovers but for sheer razzle-dazzle Pioneer’s 30-27 win over Martinborough in their Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup premier division rugby match at the Jeans street grounds on Saturday would take some beating.

On a lovely summer’s day and on a surface perfectly suited to the running game, both teams went into the game intent on giving the ball plenty of air, and it was nothing unusual for play to be up one end of the paddock one minute and down the other the next.

All that movement was always going to test the basic handling and passing skills of the participants and many times they let themselves down.

But that only heightened the entertainment value as the more the game progressed the more turnover ball became the launching pad for dangerous counter attacks, aided and abetted by referee Shay O’Gorman’s impressive interpretation of the advantage rule.

It took a late penalty from a tricky angle by halfback Joseph Thompson to give Pioneer the win after Martinborough had drawn level at 27-all well into the last quarter.

And on reflection, they probably did enough over the course of the 80 minutes to deserve their narrow victory.

Certainly they did have the edge in the forward battle through most of the first half, thanks to the efforts of hard grafters like Conan Gray and Jonte Miller, and there were no more impressive backs on the field than halfback Joseph Thompson and the hard-running Nikora Ewe.

Up 21-13 at the break Pioneer did waste some golden scoring chances in the second spell with Thompson missing a couple of kicks from close range.

What should have been a certain try was also being butchered after Ewe had made another of his telling breaks, but credit must also be given to Martinborough for the manner in which they raised the ante and started asking serious questions of the Pioneer defence.

Second-five Amryn Sanders was all power and purpose and flanker Chris Raymond was constantly at the head of the many short passing rushes mounted by the forwards.

Indeed in the very last minute of the game a spirited Martinborough forward drive had them claiming a try had been scored, but the touch judge and referee thought otherwise and the whistle was sounded to end play, much to the relief of Pioneer players and their supporters.

Other premier division matches on Saturday saw Gladstone make it two wins from as many matches with a 25-14 defeat of Carterton, and Marist likewise with a 46-18 victory over East Coast.

In the game played under lights at Eketahuna on Thursday night the home team gave the defending Tui Cup champions Greytown plenty to think about, Greytown winning 10-8.

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