A 20-point haul by Joe Thompson helped Pioneer to a narrow 30-27 win over Martinborough at Colombo Road in Masterton this afternoon.
The busy half back scored two tries and kicked 10-points as the hosts hung on for their first win of the season.
With the scores locked at 27-all Thompson slotted a late penalty to put them in front with only a few minutes remaining. However, Martinborough, who had already fought back from 27-13 behind, nearly snatched victory as they piled on the pressure with the clock ticking down. They looked to have sealed it with a late try, but the touch judge had the final say and with that referee Shay O’Gorman blew full time.
It was a thrilling, end-to-end game of rugby thanks largely to some wayward passing and perhaps early season over-enthusiasm. Nonetheless it made for a terrific spectacle.
Martinborough scored the opening try, through wing Stacie Aporo. Pioneer responded empathetically running in three tries in 20-minutes. Their skipper, Conan Gray, scored the first, before Damian Kamo-Paku finished off a 50-metre run from Reece Tanirau-Calkin, to score.
Martinborough stayed in touch through the boot of Tipi Haira.
On the stroke of the half hour mark Thompson scored the first of his two tries, a brilliant solo effort. From a scrum on half way, No.8 Jonte Miller went blind throwing a pass to Thompson who chipped over the wingers head, regathered the ball on the 22-metre line diving over in the corner.
Trailing 20-13 at the break Martinborough kept their cool and played smart rugby, hanging onto the ball. They couldn’t breach Pioneer’s defences, and by midway through the half were further behind when Thompson darted through a hole close to the line to score his second try.
Martinborough’s patience was eventually rewarded with two tries, the first by hooker Elijah-James Pakoti and then No.8 Cody Cunningham, busting over in the tackle from a five metre scrum.
Having gone off the boil, Pioneer rallied in the last ten metres with replacement wing Charlie Brown nearly scoring in the corner. Shortly after Thompson stepped up for a shot at goal which proved the match winner.
Along with Thompson, lock Conan Gray had a stunning game which included a brilliant try-saving tackle midway through the second half.
For the visitors, Arymn Sanders showed plenty of enterprise in the midfield, while looses Chris Raymond and Cody Cunningham got through a tonne of work.
In other matches, Gladstone beat Carterton 25-14, Marist were 46-18 winners over East Coast out a Whareama, while Greytown won Thursday night’s match against Eketahuna 10-8.