Pioneer No 8 Laurence Titter on the charge during Saturday’s promotion-relegation rugby match against Red Star at Memorial Park. Titter scored two tries as Pioneer won a tight match 33-29. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

Pioneer started strong and finished even stronger as they earned promotion back into premier club rugby, with a pulsating 33-29 win over Masterton Red Star at Memorial Park on Saturday.

The slippery conditions made it difficult for either team to give the ball much air, and that was reflected in a scoreless opening 20 minutes.

It was Pioneer who were the dominant team through that period, however, and they scored the first try of the match in the 22nd minute through powerful No 8 Laurence Titter.

Titter had a match to remember for Pioneer, making several strong carries and constantly getting his team on the front foot.

He was in the thick of the action again a few minutes later as he made a strong break off the back of a scrum before kicking ahead.

The ball was regathered, and Pioneer spun it wide, only to be bundled out in the corner.

They disrupted the resulting lineout and scored again through some strong forward play.

Red Star needed to hit back and they scored two quick tries just before halftime to grab a 12-10 lead against the run of play.

Both teams worked hard for the ascendancy in the second spell, but it was Red Star who found themselves ahead 29-20 with 15 minutes to go after some impressive passages of play.

But Pioneer hit back with two tries in three minutes to give themselves a one-point lead with 10 minutes to play, and they added a penalty in the final minute for good measure.

Pioneer were deserving winners after putting in a committed performance, and they outscored Red Star six tries to four.

Even a horror goal-kicking display – which saw Pioneer miss all six conversions – could not stop them from taking the spoils.

Titter was a standout for Pioneer and his hard running was rewarded with two tries, while Mike Harmon was also prominent in their forward effort.

Red Star had plenty of opportunities to secure the win, but their inability to stay on the task after scoring points came back to haunt them.

Both teams were guilty of giving possession straight back to the opposition with their failure to cleanly receive kick-offs, but in the end it was Red Star that this hurt the most.

The joy in the Pioneer players and supporters was clear to see when the final whistle went, and they can now start preparing for a return to premier rugby in 2019.