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Marist prove no pushover

DANGER: Shannon Lewis on the attack for Marist.
DANGER: Shannon Lewis on the attack for Marist.

Rugby can be a strange old game.

Just ask anybody who watched Pioneer maintain their unbeaten record in the Wairarapa-Bush premier division competition with a 43-31 win over Marist at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday if you want evidence of that.

To say this was a game of fluctuating fortunes would be doing a disservice to the roller-coaster ride it provided for supporters of the two sides.

Marist were the rank underdogs but were so competitive, especially in the forward exchanges, inside the first quarter that an upset looked on when they deservedly went out to a 17-12 lead.

Several times the hard-working Marist pack had turned over ball in the rucks and mauls, and by gaining the lion’s share of possession they were largely nullifying the flair and pace of the Pioneer backs.

It was surprising then that, once Marist got their noses in front, their tactical approach changed and they started to move the ball wider, and by regularly turning over possession themselves they allowed Pioneer to prosper.

By halftime Pioneer led 19-17 and, when they stretched their advantage from there to 26-17, 33-17, 40-17 and 43-17 with three converted tries and a penalty, it looked all over bar the shouting.

The closing stanzas, however, were all Marist.

Reverting to using the forwards as their main attacking weapon, they drove hard at the Pioneer defence and were rewarded with two converted tries in about as many minutes.

It might not have been enough to give them the win but it did mean they had a bonus point to show for their efforts, and nobody could quibble at that. For the Pioneer forwards this was a tough day at the office.

For most of the game they were given a lesson in the art of rucking and mauling, areas in which they lacked their usual physicality, but it wasn’t all bad news.

Their scrum was clearly superior and they were typically dangerous in broken play, where the likes of Nathan Rolls, Rima Murarai and Jaden Mason often made valuable metreage with their strong running. Flanker Murarai was one of the standout forwards on the paddock, complementing his attacking play with some equally impressive defensive work.

The Pioneer backs relished any opportunity to stretch their legs. The inside combination of Joseph Thompson and Hoani Peacock were impressive in their option taking, and Tommy Harmon and Nikora Ewe were punishing attackers in midfield.

Ewe, especially, looked a youngster of huge potential as he consistently troubled the Marist defence with his combative style.

Marist’s forwards came out of this game with their reputations mostly enhanced, none more so than dynamic flanker Liam Devine, who covered huge territory on both attack and defence. His tackle count must have been enormous.

Kieran O’Brien and Laurence Titter were grand value as well, with O’Brien way and above the best of the lineout forwards on display. The one negative was the scrum, where Marist were virtually dismantled on probably half a dozen occasions. First-five Pua Tafa and midfielder Mike Te Whare were the pick of the Marist backs.

Nikora Ewe (2). Conan Gray, Sean Robinson, Hoani Peacock and Nathan Rolls scored tries for Pioneer, and Joseph Thompson landed five conversions and one penalty goal.

Try scorers for Marist were Laurence Titter (2), Shannon Rimene-Albrett, Seuituli Tafa, and Shannon Lewis and Pua Tafa added three conversions.

Eketahuna also maintained their unbeaten record with a 24-14 win over East Coast at Eketahuna but not before East Coast had given them plenty to think about.

Sam Monaghan (2), Luke Mahoney and Daniel White scored tries for Eketahuna, and Robbie Anderson and Tom Meuli kicked one conversion apiece. Nick Olson and Jake Gibbs were the try scorers for East Coast and Byron Karaitaina kicked two conversions.

Greytown too made it four wins from as many matches when they scored a 44-19 win over Martinborough at Greytown. Greytown ran in eight tries through Taylor Fenwick (2), Seanoa Isaac (2), Norm Henricksen, Tana Isaac, Kurt Simmonds and Gareth Van Dalen. Luke Dingle kicked one conversion, as did Raymond Oakley. Craig Barclay and Ardun Munn scored tries for Martinborough and Tipene Haira landed three penalties.

Gladstone moved into a clear fourth on the Kapene Cup points table with a convincing 37-10 win over Carterton at Carterton. Andrew Fell, Lance Graves, Inia Katia, Hayden Manley and Andrew Oldfield scored tries for Gladstone, and Fell also kicked three conversions and two penalties. Cory Carmichael and Lance Stevenson scored tries for Carterton.

Competition points are:

Greytown 20, Pioneer 19, Eketahuna 18, Gladstone 10, Marist 6, Martinborough 5, East Coast 0, Carterton 0.

Next Saturday’s draw is:

Pioneer v Carterton, East Coast v Gladstone, Martinborough v Marist, Eketahuna v Greytown.

Senior reserve results from Saturday:
East Coast 31 v 27 Eketahuna
Marist 27 v 15 Tuhirangi
Gladstone 26 v 12 Carterton
Martinborough 27 v 22 Greytown
Bush Sports defaulted to Pioneer