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Special try seals Pioneer win

Pioneer’s Shane Harmon wrong-foots the Marist defence. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

By Gary Caffell

Pioneer were fair value for their 13-6 win over Marist in their Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup premier division rugby match at Jeans St on Saturday in a game marred by a high penalty count and puggy ground conditions,
both of which contributed to making it a somewhat stop-start affair.

General expectations were for something of a try fest with both teams having a reputation for being at their most dangerous when moving the ball around but, as it happened, just the one try was scored.

Mind you, it did have a huge say in the end result, coming as it did in the last quarter and breaking a 6-6 deadlock created through Nikora Ewe kicking two penalties for Pioneer and James Goodger likewise for Marist.

The try was something special too, started by a typically aggressive burst by evergreen Pioneer fullback Nathan Rolls from just inside his own half and finished off in the corner by Manahi Fox after the ball had gone through another four or five pairs of hands.

And the conversion from Ewe from almost on the sideline provided the perfect icing for the cake.

For the remainder of the game it was pretty much a case of Marist throwing everything bar the proverbial kitchen sink at the Pioneer line as they desperately strove to get on level terms again but a mix of poor option taking and some tenacious Pioneer defence held them out.

Pioneer were without two of their star performers through injury, inspirational pack leader Conan Gray and quality inside back Joseph Thompson, so while they didn’t have the efficiency in their attacking play they would have liked they would have been happy to pick up a victory which could prove very important as they press for a Tui Cup semi-final berth a little further down the track.

Their forwards were well led by Matt Kawana in the tighter exchanges and by Jonte Miller in the loose while normal outside back Reece Calkin showed his versatility by slotting in comfortably and providing a quick service for a backline in which Ewe, Rolls and Shane Harmon were the standouts.

Midfielder Ewe was always a hard man to stop with ball in hand as was Harmon while Rolls, who is much more accustomed to playing as a loose forward, did everything right in the No 15 jersey, counter attacking with purpose and being safe under the high ball.

In James Goodger and Liam Devine Marist had two of the hardest-working forwards on the paddock and the pick of their backs was second-five Leo Eneliko, who was seldom halted by the first tackle.

East Coast might be lonely at the bottom of the Tui Cup points table but they came mighty close to picking up their second successive win when they went down 23-22 against Eketahuna.

Martinborough kept their Tui Cup semi-final hopes very much alive with a 24-17 win over Carterton, while defending champions Greytown snuck home over Gladstone 14-10 in a top-of-the-table clash at
Gladstone.

Unofficial competition points: Gladstone 42, Greytown 40, Pioneer 31, Marist and Martinborough 29, Eketahuna 28, Carterton 27, East Coast 6.

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