Central 38 Moutere 14
Moutere had hopes of pushing the competition frontrunners, but Central were simply too clinical.
The visitors could not have got off to a better start. Magpies hooker and key player Francis Smith was sin-binned after four minutes for repeated infringing as Central attacked and with the Moutere captain off the field, the Blues scored tries to second five Onolevu Temo and lock Jeremy Foley. Two Gareth Smith conversions gave them a 14-0 lead after just 10 minutes.
Playing with a strong breeze, Central continued to keep the home side pinned in their own half, assisted by some intelligent kicking from first five Smith. That territorial dominance paid off for a third time after 30 minutes as hooker Tupou Sau crossed and when Moutere No 8 Baxter Wilson was yellow-carded on 39 minutes flanker Adam Goldsworthy secured Central's bonus-point, Smith's fourth conversion giving them a 28-0 lead.
Into the wind, Central were unable to dominate against a more aggressive Moutere unit as they had in the first 40. The Magpies finally got on the board after 49 minutes when Smith scored, but the game slowly became more scrappy and it was not until the 67th minute that Central extended their lead via a Smith penalty. Replacement halfback Grant Coles scored Moutere's second try a minute later, but the visitors had the final say with fullback Sam Aolele responding to complete a comprehensive win.
Central co-coach Tony Katting felt his side stuck to their patterns and used their attacking flair well in the first half, but still wanted to see more patience from his players. He said they were unable to play with as much structure in a "very disrupted, stop/start second half".
Katting singled out the dynamic loose-forward trio of Kaleni Taetuli, Reyne Volavola and Adam Goldsworthy for yet another strong performance, while Smith and Aolele were the standout backs.
Despite being sin-binned, captain Smith was Moutere's player of the match and once again got through a power of work. No 6 Brigham Hart was solid, while halfback Ben Smith was tidy and winger Regan Marshall threatened on occasion.
Co-coach Laurin Gane said bad discipline and a lack of urgency cost his side in a first half where it "felt like we were playing against 16 men".
However, he was more upbeat about their second-half effort and said they got stuck into their work and showed more aggression.
Waitohi 36 Awatere 3
Waitohi coach Tonga Taumoefolau called his side's performance "a step-up from last week" and highlighted a slick effort from a backline who counter-attacked well and made the most of their chances.
Thanks to first-half tries from first five Daniel Hawkins, centre Hayden Woolley and winger Eugene Taylor, the home side held what was an all-but unassailable 22-3 lead at the break. Although the game was effectively gone, Awatere continued to hold the ball for periods and did their best to stifle Waitohi's possession in the second half. With the game drawing to a close it looked as though their efforts might be rewarded by denying the defending champs a bonus-point. It was not to be, though, and the match finished with another display of Waitohi's firepower, No 8 Fredericks scoring two fine individual tries to seal a convincing margin.
Awatere hoed into their work in the forwards throughout and Taumoefolau said they were often able to slow his side's ball down at ruck time. However, the ball Waitohi did get they used effectively and he said his players' skills and pace were key ingredients in all five of their tries.
In his first game of the season, Woolley was Waithoi's man of the match. Second five Filipo Ligaliga was also strong, while lock Daniel Karena led the forwards on his return from injury.
While disappointed to lose by 33 points, Awatere player-coach Glenn Blackmore commented on a "vast improvement" from his side after being humbled by Central in their previous match. He felt they won enough possession and had enough field position to be competitive, but made too many simple mistakes and poor decisions.
"I don't think the score reflected the way we played . . . they scored three turnover tries in the first half. Turnovers were costly and when we had it in their 22 we'd just turn it over and they have two or three very dangerous players.
"They got it wide quickly from our turnovers and it is pretty hard to stop them once they're in space."
Young prop Jack Best put in another solid effort, while prop Kurt Lindsay and veteran lock Stu Campbell had their best games of the season. Flanker Gareth Archer was into everything. Halfback Joe Asiata and second five Stu Dudley were the pick of the backs.
Harlequins 23 Renwick 13
Rugby is much easier when you're dominating at set piece time and that was the key to a well-deserved Quins victory.
The inclusion of Blues squad member Tim Perry at prop and the return from injury of skipper Simon Muir at hooker to join Fetu Ieremia made for a powerful Quins front row.
Playing into a healthy breeze, the home side took the early lead through a Kurt Schollum penalty, but the visitors crossed for the first five-pointer after 20 minutes. Quins won a 5m scrum after twisting the Renwick pack on their own feed and, with his forwards shunting towards the line, halfback Matt Duggan was able to pick up and scoot over.
Duggan extended that lead with a penalty 15 minutes later, but the Green Machine regained the advantage when fullback Nick van Lent ran 20m to score following a strong run from lock Hamish Greenwood. Schollum missed the conversion and a few minutes later he would rue another miss.
With time in the first spell up, the Renwick No 8 missed touch from a penalty, allowing Quins to return the ball from halfway and fire it through numerous sets of hands for lock Pierre Vienings to score a superb try, giving his side a 13-8 lead.
Aside from the last five minutes where first five Stu Nairn snuck over following his team's only sustained period of pressure in Quins territory for the whole half, the second spell was all the visitors.
Now playing into the wind, Quins starved Renwick of possession as their forwards muscled up and took control. They scored their third try on 60 minutes when No 8 Johnny Hope burrowed over off the back of a 5m scrum following a series of very dominant scrums on the Renwick line. Duggan converted and nailed a second penalty to extend their lead to 23-8 with 15 minutes remaining, before Nairn's try in the dying stages gave the home side brief hope of a losing bonus point.
Quins coach Graeme Hiku was full of praise for a huge effort from his forwards and said the whole team had stuck to the game plan. The front row of Perry, Muir and Ieremia were dominant at set piece and in general play. Hope put in another strong effort at No 8 and ran hard with ball in hand, while flanker Willie Taufua also had a good day. Midfielders Willie Tau'alupe and Greg Marfell and fullback/second five Mike Schmidt-Lealava'a played well in an efficient backline.
For Renwick, Greenwood and fellow lock James Martin were industrious, while prop Anaru Norton had several strong carries. In the backline, second-five Kyle Marfell defended and carried with typical vigour and Nairn was busy at first five. Coach Baz Henare praised Quins for a good performance and said it was back to the drawing board for his team after their set piece failed to operate all day.