Pioneer held off a desperate Marist to win 13-6 in Tui Cup rugby at Jean Street in Masterton this afternoon.
Minus a number of key players the home team cobbled together a side that proved impenetrable on defence keeping Marist tryless, despite coming under huge pressure.
Both sides kicked two penalties, with the difference being a try by Manahi Fox, superbly converted by stand-in goal kicker Nikora Ewe. The hard running Ewe had an outstanding game playing at second-five eighth. Running the inside channel he made several telling breaks, one from just in-front of his own try line. On defence the big fella was also a workhorse making a number for big tackles.
Reece Calkin was another player to shine, playing in the unfamiliar position of half-back. His regular spot was filled by Nathan Rolls who normally pulls on one of the loose forward jerseys.
It was Rolls’ barnstorming run that led to the only try of the match. With the scores level 6-6 midway through the second half, Rolls received the ball just inside his own half, charging up towards the Marist 22-metre line. Quick hands stretched Marist out-wide and Fox scored in the corner.
But there was plenty of the match still to play as Marist upped the tempo, piling on the pressure. It took a huge defensive effort by Pioneer to hold the green-machine out. The visitors weren’t going to go down without a fight, turning down several shots at goal in front, only to be thwarted by a wall of red and blue.
Loose forwards Jonte Miller and Nathan Kapene were the pick of the Pioneer forward pack, always looking to carry the ball. Kapene also proved a handy punter of the ball when called on to clear it.
Marist deserved more for their endeavour, but perhaps paid the price for not being patient enough.
Meanwhile, Greytown over-turned their first round defeat to top of the table Gladstone winning 14-10. Gladstone still lead the completion, ahead of Greytown who are two points back.
It is going to be a tight race for the other two semi-final spots with just four points separating five teams. Pioneer is third after their win over Marist, who are two points adrift and level with Martinborough after they beat Carterton 24-17. Eketakuna’s narrow 23-22 win over East Coast has them one point behind Marinborough, and one point ahead of Carterton. With three matches still to play, just who joins Gladstone and Greytown in the play-offs is anyone’s guess.