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Pioneer and Martinborough bounce back with crucial wins

Eketāhuna 25
Pioneer 32

Pioneer bounced back from their heavy first-round loss to Marist with a hard-fought win under lights in Eketāhuna on Friday night.

However, it was the hosts who held the early advantage scoring in the first two minutes, but from then on Pioneer coach Victor Thompson said “it was pretty much tit for tat”, and “we were always playing catch up until late in the second half.”

“It was an improved effort from the previous weekend, but it was a little bit different playing at night, and the backs scored few tries, which was good.”

Thompson singled out flanker Himiona Haira as their player of the game saying “his workrate and everything was just unmatchable” while fellow loosie Jonte Miller continued his recent run of good form and the pair worked well in tandem.

Fullback Reece Calkin and winger Timoci Vatunitu, who scored a crucial try, were standouts in the Pioneer backline.

The win puts Pioneer back on track to make the top four in the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup.

“It all comes down to that we want to progress every year, and we got top four last year, so the thing is to get back in there again,” Thompson said.

Eketāhuna picked up a valuable bonus point for finishing within seven points of Pioneer and remained third on the congested points table.

Martinborough 24
Greytown 15

A dominant scrum and strong defence were the catalysts for Martinborough’s 24–15 win over Greytown at Gladstone on Friday night.

The “green and blacks” scored three tries, including a penalty try from a scrum while restricting Greytown to five penalties.

“I was pretty happy they didn’t cross our line,” a satisfied Martinborough coach, James Bruce, said.

“Our scrum was majorly dominant, which helped us hugely and limited them; our forwards played reasonably well, and we defended well around the fringes, which we’ve been working on.”

Captain and prop Jono Hartnell and No.8 Cody Cunningham were the try scorers for the injury-hit Martinborough, with Bruce saying, “We’ve got more guys on the sideline than we have on the field. We only had 19 on the team sheet, and there were some big shifts put in by some boys, like [hooker] Kody Thompson, who played really well.”

Bruce also had special praise for veteran winger Nathan Hunt, a former NZ Heartland XV representative, who continues to amaze his longtime coach at the age of 35.

“He’s something special. I don’t know how he can read and move; his reaction time – no one else in Wairarapa has reaction time like him.

“One-on-one with anyone in Wairarapa; I’ve watched three or four guys just catch fresh air when they thought they had him.”

As reported in Saturday’s Times-Age, Marist moved to the top of the standings after their thrilling 31–29 win over two-time defending champions Carterton on Thursday night, with winger Hayden Cooper slotting the winning penalty with time up on the clock, while an injury-hit East Coast picked up their first win of the championship prevailing 24–10 in a tight battle with Masterton Red Star.

Provisional Points

Marist 10; Carterton 7; Eketāhuna 6; Masterton Red Star, Pioneer 5; East Coast, Martinborough 4; Greytown 0.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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