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And now for the playoffs

Carterton fullback Aseri Waqa was at his attacking best against Marist on Saturday, scoring two tries. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

MARIST 27
CARTERTON 22

Marist rolled into the 2022 playoffs in try-scoring form after overcoming a somewhat shaky start in their top-of-the-table clash with Carterton at Belvedere Road on Saturday.

The top two teams in the Wairarapa Premier grade did their utmost to use an attacking approach, despite extremely windy conditions, to produce an entertaining match that featured eight tries. But

it was Marist, on the back of four unanswered five-pointers and fewer errors, who won the day.

The opening exchanges pointed to a very different outcome. Marist had a strong wind over their right shoulders at the opening whistle, but conceded three quick tries, including a brilliant individual effort from Carterton fullback Aseri Waqa, who escaped the clutches of most of the Marist backline before scooting down the right wing to score near the corner.

Up 15-0 after 15 minutes into the wind, Carterton had a spring in their step and Marist rattled.

The next 40 minutes of play was a very different story.

Marist scored three tries of their own before halftime and another midway through the second half to hold a handy 27-15 advantage that, apart from a few nervous minutes at the end, they never looked like relinquishing.

Carterton committed more handling errors than they would expect to, the gusty weather conditions notwithstanding, and turned the ball over in the contact areas to a Marist side always looking to attack the ball in the tackle.

It didn’t help that centre Inia Katia spent 10 minutes in the bin after misjudging his jump after chasing a high kick and clattering into an opponent before he had come back to ground.

Carterton, to their credit, remained positive throughout and when Aseri Waqa scored his second try from a slick backline exchange that started from halfway, they had a few minutes to snatch an unlikely win. Marist maintained their composure, and possession, to see the game to its conclusion.

For Marist, centre Charles Mataitai had a strong game, as did blindside flanker Rhys Severn, who produced a couple of strong charges through the heart of the Carterton defence. Pua Tafa, who played most of the match at first five-eighth, made good use of his left foot, getting plenty of yardage off the boot when the time came to move the ball downfield.

MARTINBOROUGH 21
EAST COAST 17

Martinborough secured the fourth and final spot in the Wairarapa club rugby Premier grade playoffs with a gutsy performance in Whareama against East Coast.

Martinborough were forced to defend for the vast majority of the second half as East Coast threw everything at them, including the kitchen sink. The visitors got out of their own 22 just long enough to score their third try of the match before needing to manage a rising tackle count to hold on for victory.

Martinborough coach James Bruce said a tough mentality, built up in the past few weeks of must-win games, saw them through.

“It’s a shame both these teams couldn’t get through to the semis, they are both good enough. It’s cool when the country teams do well. We managed to hang tough enough for long enough to get the result.”

Martinborough has been without some key forwards in recent weeks and Bruce has been particularly pleased to see their replacements step up.

“It’s very satisfying to know, as a group, that we can play good footy even when we are not at full strength. We had to dig really deep against East Coast, but the boys held the line several times and that was vital.’’

Martinborough held a slender halftime lead after tries to fullback Nathan Hunt and halfback Josh Matthews, who scampered away from a ruck after a long period of second-phase possession.

Importantly, Tipene Hiara converted all three of Martinborough’s tries in breezy conditions, adding to an already high success rate for him this season.

GLADSTONE 21
EKETAHUNA 19

Gladstone played a get-out-of-jail-free card to snatch an unlikely win and a semifinal spot this weekend.

Down 19-7 with little more than 10 minutes on the clock, Gladstone scored two converted tries to grab a victory and extended their season.

Poor discipline in the form of repeated offside offences and some high tackles had Gladstone on the wrong end of three yellow cards and one red card. They had to play the last 20 minutes with just 13 men on the field.

Eketahuna had by far the better of the game, controlling most of the possession, but couldn’t crack the short-handed Gladstone defence when opportunities arose to do so, leaving the door open for an astonishing comeback.

The first of the two tries in the dying stages of the match came when Gladstone were awarded a penalty, which they used to set up a lineout and several drives at the Eketahuna line, eventually crashing over and adding the conversion.

The second try came, amazingly, from the restart of play. A clean break through the midfield created some space out wide and ball eventually got into the hands of reserve hooker Roger Barnes, who showed good pace and a calm head to go over in the corner and tie the scores.

Up stepped second five-eighth Jeremey Osbourne, who judged the angle and the breeze to perfection to slot the
game-winning conversion.

Gladstone coach Charlie Bargh, relieved to get the win, didn’t mince his words.

“We were lucky. We never found out rhythm and our discipline was very poor, to put it politely. Our skills got us through in the end, but our discipline will have be alot better against Carterton. It’s a mental thing and we have to work harder at it.’’

The red card may have repercussions for Gladstone, should a suspension be the result of a review of a high tackle by the competition authorities.

GREYTOWN 34
PIONEER 22

Greytown got the better of Pioneer in a high-scoring affair in Greytown.

Both teams had an attacking approach to a fixture that was, in part, preparation for the bottom-four playoffs stating this week, when these two sides will face off again, but this time at Pioneer’s home ground in Masterton.

In the top-four semifinals this weekend, Marist will host Martinborough, and Carterton will be at home to Gladstone. In the bottom four, East Coast host Eketahuna and Greytown will travel to Masterton to play Pioneer.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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