Marist centre Pua Tafa, right, was put into a yawning gap for the opening try and a 16-6 lead at the break. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
Predictable results and a stunning Pioneer upset. Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE wraps up the first round of the Moose Kapene Cup.
The tight five set the platform for Marist’s bonus-point victory over Gladstone at Memorial Park No 2.
The front row of Jeremiah Mapasua, Stan Wright, and hooker Sam Siaosi laid the perfect platform for the green and white scrum, which dominated from the first whistle. The trio were also powerful runners with ball in hand, often gaining plenty of meterage going forward.
They were supported by locks Cory Reid and captain Peter Beech and the outstanding No 8 Shannon Rimene-Albrett.
Despite their early set piece dominance, it was the experienced Gladstone pack led by Wai-Bush flanker Ryan Knell that got the better at the early breakdowns, earning several early turnover penalties.
In a scrappy start to the game the sides traded early penalties, and it wasn’t until the 33rd minute that Marist centre Pua Tafa was put into a yawning gap for the opening try and a 16-6 lead at the break.
Gladstone started the second half the better, despite being down to 14 men with Andrew Smith in the sin bin, when fullback Harry Eschenbach scored from a well-worked move from a lineout.
Marist then took control with a try to Rimene-Albrett, from a pushover scrum, a second to Tafa, and a freakish try to halfback Tuakana Riwai-Couch, when he intercepted a pass with his foot and scored, to extend the lead to 33-16 with 10 minutes to play.
Eschenbach closed the gap to 10 points with his second try, in the last action of a game that never rose to any great heights.
Beech was satisfied with the outcome after a disjointed Town and Country series for Marist.
“It’s good to get a gauge with these crossovers now, but we came here with a goal of a bonus-point victory and we got that on home turf, so we just build from there,” he said.
“I think it’s the first time that we’ve really had everyone in together, as we’ve tried a few different combinations, not disrespecting the previous competition, but we had people away, and we’re finally getting our best XV sorted.”
Gladstone coach Steve Thompson was disappointed with the result but said there were some positives to take out of the game.
“We started quite well I thought, and it was just a matter of keep ticking over, but at times we didn’t have enough ball when we needed it,” he said.
“I thought everybody lifted their game defensively and tried their best when attacking, but it’s just a case of stringing it together.”
A try to fullback Wiremu Haira in the dying seconds gave Pioneer a stunning come-from-behind victory at Martinborough.
There was no hint of the drama at halftime, with the home side holding a commanding 25-5 lead, but the blue and red machine fired up in the second 40, scoring four tries to secure their first win since returning to the premier competition last season.
Pioneer coach Koti Whittaker said there was no big halftime talk, and the team just worked on a few little fix-its.
“We talked about our defensive structure and the transition from defence to attack and we needed to work harder off the ball and we did that, and we talked about holding on to the ball when we’ve got it, and making yardage that way,” he said.
“The last try to win the game would have been about 1- plus phases, from inside our 22 with a scrum and making it down to their end and scoring a try in the corner.”
Whittaker added there was an amazing feeling at the end, and the result is good for the whole Pioneer community.
“We have a 3-2-1 system, and the team gave the three points to our supporters because they felt that drive from the sidelines, which was awesome.”
A late try was also needed at Eketahuna for the home team to sneak home with a one-point victory.
Carterton were leading 20-16 in the final 10 minutes of what had been a to-and-fro game, with both sides enjoying periods of dominance.
Eketahuna coach Craig Pepperell said the winning try to fullback Matt Raleigh came after some sustained pressure and went through nine phases.
“We had a good set piece and we built pressure and we moved the point of attack from side to side, and we moved it quickly and Frankie Bryant’s pass over the top to Rhys [Christian] created the overlap, and when Matt got the ball, he only had to run five metres,” he said.
“That was pleasing to me because I felt at times, we didn’t have the right numbers in the breakdown and Carterton sort of had the dominant hand.”
Pepperell was pleased to come out of what he described as a tough game with the four points.
“Our set piece was good, our lineout was better, and how we constructed our points was really good. To me that was a real banana skin game for us, not knowing enough about them with all their young guys, so I am really pleased with the steely character the boys are showing.”
East Coast 15
A strong second half had Greytown pull away for a valuable bonus-point victory over a gallant East Coast at Greytown.
Down 14-15 at the break Greytown coach Mark Childs said it took the halftime team talk to fire up the home side.
“Our guys were very flat in the first half for some reason, so a few words at halftime and we came out with a bit more purpose and played a bit more territory and managed to close it out,” he said.
“The score – the game was probably closer than that. Coast played really well, and typical Coast they came with a plan and made it hard for us.
“When we had the ball, they competed with us at the breakdown, they defended very well and were very committed. It was a good game of country rugby.”
Tuhirangi lead the Senior Reserve championship after four rounds after their 64-12 trouncing of Martinborough. Masterton Red Star bounced back from the previous weekend’s loss to Tuhirangi thumping Pioneer 55-19. Carterton won a tense battle with Puketoi 15-10, East Coast defeated Greytown 24-15, and Marist had a 24-14 victory over Gladstone.