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Sam the man for Marist

The 2023 premier club rugby season just went up a level. And not without some drama. Unbeaten Carterton sits top of the table after round three of the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup; Marist tucks in behind in second place; and competition for the other two playoff spots is heating up nicely.

Martinborough 22
Marist 24

In what was the game of the season so far, Marist pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the last moments of a second half that had, up till then, been dominated by Martinborough.

A desperate lunge at the line, an initial ruling of ‘ball held up,’ a quick consultation with the referee’s assistant, which produced a change of decision, and a calmly slotted conversion, bought the curtain down on a spirited match worthy of its billing.

When the final whistle went, Marist had retained the Nunn Shield and recorded a sixth consecutive victory. There was also a sense among those there that another meeting between these two sides would likely produce another thrilling spectacle.

Martinborough had by the better of the opening exchanges and was rewarded for their early dominance with a try handy the posts after some slick passing. However, the 7-0 lead didn’t last long, as Marist made the most of a breeze behind their backs to camp down in Martinborough’s patch.

A period of scrum dominance and plenty of ball eventually told, and a precise draw-and-pass through the backline to the waiting overlap on the blindside had left winger Hayden Cooper putting openside flanker Fletcher Carrig into space and over the line. Cooper’s conversion tied up the scores.

Marist applied plenty of pressure for the remainder of the first half, but small errors and a determined defence prevented them from adding to their score until centre Tafa Tafa made a telling cut on a short pass to score untouched under the bar and a 14-7 advantage. Marist had a steady diet of possession and field position for the rest of the first half but couldn’t find the finishing touches.

When the teams swapped sides at halftime, so did the momentum.

Having been called on to make plenty of tackles in the first 40 minutes, Martinborough found their rhythm and turned the screws on the visitors.

It took 20 minutes to finally crack the Marist defence, and, having done that, Martinborough did it again just a few minutes later.

Firstly, right winger Michael Bing showed sharp anticipation to latch on to an intercept pass and coast in under the posts to bring the scores level again at 14-14.

It was the elusive Bing crossing the line again only moments later when he expertly went over in the corner after Martinborough had chosen to increase the pace of the game with quick taps and sending the ball wide.

The conversion was missed, and both sides exchanged penalties for a 22-17 margin to Martinborough with less than 10 minutes to go. The home side will probably feel they should have closed the game out from there, and perhaps they should have. But there was one last twist in this encounter.

Marist somehow got their hands on the ball long enough to get some go-forward which gave them an opportunity to chance their arm in the Martinborough 22.

Up stepped a hero for the day, in the form of Sam Siaosi. From the front row, substituted, then called back to the field and into the thick of multiple phases on the Martinborough line, Siaosi got a pass he probably wasn’t expecting, but he made the most of it anyway to take a few tacklers with him over the chalk. Referee Steve Newson scrambled to get a clear view but wasn’t satisfied he’d seen a grounding. His touchline assistant had, and the try was awarded for a 22-22 scoreline.

While the conversion to win the match was handy enough, replacement winger Parau Ellis remained calm and sent the ball over the black dot.

Expectations for the next match between these two teams are already rising.

Gladstone 7
Pioneer 74

There’s one way to get back on the horse after leaking 70-plus points one week, and that’s to score 70-plus points the very next week. And that’s exactly what Pioneer managed at Gladstone on Saturday.

In a game where the winner has scored a truckload of tries, there are bound to be a few records. For Pioneer, outside backs Nikora Ewe and Reece Calkin each bagged five tries, which had club historians wondering if that was a first, not only for the club, but in Wairarapa rugby.

Coach Victor Thompson said it was pleasing that the team put the previous result behind them as quickly as they did.

“Last week we turned up, but we didn’t show up. We regrouped at training during the week, and by the time we got to Gladstone, we had the right attitude, we stuck to our plans, and when we had some momentum … we got on a real roll. We gave the ball some air, which is our way and got a great result.”

Carterton 54
East Coast 14

Carterton maintaining their perfect record through the first three rounds of the competition, cracking 50 points at home against so-far winless Eketahuna.

Building on their performance each week, Carterton has continued an open style that produced 11 tries in round two and another 8 tries on Saturday, including a hat-trick to powerhouse prop Tupou Lea’aemanu.

Carterton had a full squad on Saturday, largely thanks to a handful of reserve team players who took the opportunity to step up a grade. Team management is hopeful for the return of key players currently out with injuries in time for a blockbuster clash with Marist on June 10.

Greytown 39
Eketahuna 22

Greytown came out of the gates in a rush and led from start to finish on their home track on Saturday. A try in the first minute was quickly followed by two more, and Greytown were up 17-0 after 15 minutes.

Eketahuna steadied the ship and scored some nice tries of their own, but Greytown, with doubles by Riley Walton-Sexton, Nick Olson and Cyrus Baker, playing at no.8, were always comfortably ahead.

Andre Taylor made his Greytown debut at first five-eighth and displayed a mix of skill and composure one would expect from a former Hurricane and Maori All Black.

There are no club games this week, with Wairarapa Bush playing Central Hawke’s Bay, so all teams have a bye.


Bush Sports 26
Wahine Toa 14

The round-robin phase of the competition ended for Wairarapa Wahine Toa on Friday night. A derby game against Bush Sports in Pahiatua produced plenty of running rugby. Bush started strongly and raced to 19-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes and Wahine Toa had to dig deep to keep the game from getting away. Bush added a further try for a 26-0 halftime lead. Wahine Toa lifted in the second half, piecing many phases together with improved support play. Two tries to Lisa Te Moananui were the rewards for their efforts. Bush held on for a 26-14 victory and retained the Bex [Hull] Mahoney Challenge Trophy.

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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