By WALT DICKSON
Marist flier Fereti Soloa scored a late intercept try to snatch victory for his side against Greytown at Trust House Memorial Park in Masterton this afternoon.
With just a few minutes to play the fleet-footed youngster from Wellington cashed in on a Greytown blunder to gather in the ball and peel off 50-metres to seal the 29-24 victory.
It was a thrilling end to an entertaining match which will be replayed next weekend in the semi-finals.
The bonus point win puts Marist level with Greytown in second on the table however the defending champions have a better points differential handing them the home advantage.
The other semi-final will be between top qualifiers Carterton and Gladstone.
Marist will have struck a psychological blow with today’s win. They had the better of the first half and led 17-7 at the break. Their forwards were hitting the rucks hard and forcing Greytown to back peddle. Fullback Malatai Malatai and Soloa made scoring look easy, both crossing for tries.
Greytown had few opportunities with their only points in the half coming from a solo effort from Kingi Kaiwai who ghosted through the Marist defence to score near the upright.
With the sun and the breeze to their backs in the second half Greytown took the ascendency. Centre Glenn Walters scored after a break from inside back Ray Oakley and then lock Gareth van Dalen put them seven points in front after ranging outwide to run in under the posts.
With plenty of time still to play Marist forced the game, camping in the opposition 22. Twice they turned down easy shots at go and were eventually rewarded when big No.8 Kieran O’Brien crashed over near the posts to lock it up.
A short time later James Goodger missed a tricky shot at goal which would have put Marist in front. Greytown almost made them pay launching a counter attack and going close to scoring.
A big clearing kick from Marist centre Leo Eneliko was followed by a quick Greytown throw-in on the halfway line but in the confusion a wayward pass was pounced on by a flying Fereti who scampered down the field to score.
In other matches, Gladstone ran in seven tries to thrash Pioneer 43-14 and earn the fourth play-off spot. Their opponents will be round one champions Carterton who had to work hard to repel Eketahuna 27-24.
RESULTS: Tui Cup
Marist 29 (Soloa 2 tries, Malatai, O’Brien, Goodger 3 con pen)
Greytown 24 (Kaiwai, Walters and van Dalen try, Southey 3 con, pen) HT 17-7.
Carterton 27 (Humberstone 2 tries 3 con pen, Pickering try, Hurley drop goal)
Eketahuna 24 (Naimusadruka, Gammie and Lord try, Mueli try 2 con).
Pioneer 14 (Kapene try, W.Haira try and 2 con)
Gladstone 43 (Hayton 2 tries, Cameron, Cranston, Smith, Griffith, Gatenby try, T.Griffith 3 con Silvey con).
PROVISIONAL SEMI FINALS DRAW
23rd July 2016
* TUI CUP *
Carterton vs Gladstone
Greytown vs Marist
* Hodder-Seffert Cup *
Eketahuna vs Martinborough
Pioneer vs East Coast
Reserves Top 6
Pioneer v Marist
Tuhirangi v MRS
Puketoi v East Coast
Pioneer old Boys v Featherston