Captain Peter Beech [No 4] scores Marist third try. Teammate Corey Reid and assistant referee Chris Jefferies look on. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
Marist have made their first final in 12 years and Greytown held on against Eketahuna. CHRIS COGDALE reviews two enthralling Tui Cup semifinals.
Marist made Martinborough pay for poor discipline in a clinical win over the 2019 champions at Memorial Park.
Martinborough were leading 10-7 approaching halftime when Logan Flutey was sin-binned for a dangerous grass cutter tackle.
It was a case of deja vu for the No 8 who was also sin-binned in their round robin match, which proved to be turning point in that game, and was again on Saturday.
Marist immediately took advantage with a try to hooker Henry Wilson, followed by a five-pointer to captain and lock Peter Beech after a brilliant run by outstanding winger Soli Malatai, to give Marist a 17-10 lead at the break.
Peter Beech said it was vital Marist made the most of the yellow card.
“Unlucky for them, but full credit to us, you’ve got to be clinical when they’ve got a man down and we scored two tries when they had a man in the bin,” he said.
The yellow card wasn’t Logan Flutey’s only indiscretion.
Late in the game he was red-carded for putting his boot on the head of a Marist player in a ruck in clear view of assistant referee Chris Jefferies.
With the possibility of a lengthy suspension, that could end Logan Flutey’s representative prospects.
Martinborough made most of the early running and they opened the scoring in the sixth minute after a brilliant 40m run by second-five Tristan Flutey.
After being tackled just short of the line he crossed under the post to give first-five Tipene Haira an easy conversion and a 7-0 lead.
It took until 26 minutes before Marist opened their account when centre Leo Eneliko sold an outrageous dummy to cross untouched. First-five Paddy Gluck converted to even the scores.
The second half was all about guts and determination as nether team gave an inch.
Playing into an increasingly strong wind, Martinborough dominated territory and possession but could not breach the stubborn Marist defence.
Marist brought on NZ Heartland rep loose forward James Goodger, and lock Joe Beech from the bench, and Peter Beech said their introduction was vital.
“You must have a pretty strong starting line up to leave those two guys on the bench, and they brought a wealth of experience when they came on and really calmed it down,” he said.
It was Goodger who put the game out of Martinborough’s reach with four minutes to play, with a superb 48m penalty.
Peter Beech was also full of praise for Soli Malatai, who set up the decisive try and forced several vital turnovers.
“I think he’s actually leading our team and even the comp for turnovers, ripping the ball off them when needed, and he just comes up with a big play, week in and week out.”
Peter Beech said it was the toughest game they’d had all season.
“I think their game plan was to come out and match our physicality and gee there were some big hits in there.”
“We don’t have a lot of finals’ experience. Cory Reid and Rhys Severn have played a lot of finals and for a group of young guys to come together and play a game like that, was superb.”
‘Desire and defence’ wins competitions
Greytown coach Mark Childs praised his team’s character as they held on under immense Eketahuna pressure to win their semifinal at Greytown.
Leading 22-18, with five minutes to play, the home side were camped on their goal line and repelled wave after wave of Eketahuna attack, until a knock on ended the thrilling encounter.
“It’s that desire and defence that wins comps,” Childs said.
“It was an incredibly tough match, intense with both teams not giving an inch, real semifinal football.”
Eketahuna were dealt a blow before kick-off with experienced prop Sam Gammie a late withdrawal, due to his wife going into labour. Greytown took full advantage of his absence dominating the scrums and forcing a penalty try and a subsequent sin-binning.
Several of the Greytown players were part of the teams that won four titles in five years from 2012 to 2016, and Childs said that experience told.
“The likes of Tavita Isaac, Kingi Kaiwai, Teihana Brown, Rihi Brown, Gareth Van Dalen, Regan Pope and Nick Olson were all instrumental, but I tip my hat to the younger guys who really came of age under the heat of the battle.”
Making the final is a massive achievement for Childs, who won a title as player with Greytown in 1995 and is in his first year of coaching.
“I feel honoured just to be coaching Greytown. It’s where my heart is for sport. It’s a team effort. Jonathan Tanner is a scrum guru and it’s showing, and Tapaga Isaac our defence coach has done a fantastic job. It’s a tight unit.”
Childs was also full of praise for Eketahuna.
“They’re a team that deserved to be in the final in my opinion. A great bunch of guys, and they did their club proud.”
[home teams first]
Tui Cup Semifinals
Marist 20 Martinborough 10; Greytown 22 Eketahuna 18.
Hodder-Steffert Cup Semifinals
East Coast 33 Gladstone 22; Carterton WBD Pioneer.