Kahurangi claims Nelson Bays title as race for the Top Four goes down to the wire
By Nick Jeffrey [Stuff]
History was made on Saturday as Kahurangi etched its name on the Nelson Club rugby trophy for the first time, cementing its place at the top of the Stuff Tasman Trophy standings with a dominant 81-19 victory over Nelson on Saturday.
It was a fitting end to a dominant round-robin campaign which saw the side finish with an eight win, one loss record and claim the first piece of silverware on offer in 2021. Coach Brendan Smith’s men now have the luxury of sitting out the final week of the competition on a bye as they await confirmation of their opponent in next weekend’s semi-finals.
However, that won’t be decided until late Saturday afternoon after Central and Wanderers both recorded bonus point victories over higher-placed rivals, Waimea Old Boys and Marist respectively, meaning the fourth semi-final spot will potentially be decided by points differential.
Stoke also remains in the running following its 60-point thumping of Waitohi but is on the outside looking in and requires results to go its way if they are to play in the postseason.
Let’s start with what we do know. Kahurangi and Waimea Old Boys will host the two Tasman Trophy semi-finals. Marist looks locked in to the third spot and only needs a point from this weekend’s game against Renwick to assure it of a trip to Jubilee Park to face Waimea Old Boys. Who Kahurangi will face is where it gets interesting.
As we head to the final week of the round robin, Central and Wanderers are tied in fourth spot on 25 competition points, with Stoke a point in arrears. On Saturday, Central are on the road to face Waitohi, Wanderers head to Awatere/Moutere and Stoke host Nelson. On paper, all will start as comfortable favourites with bonus points wins on the cards.
Should Central and Wanderers both bank five points from their games then the tie-breaker comes down to the result between the two sides earlier in the season, which happened to be a 19-all draw in the opening week of the competition. So, the second tie-breaker in the Tasman Trophy rulebook is points differential. Central holds a +58 differential, ahead of Wanderers’ +44, meaning margin of victory in this Saturday’s final round will likely decide who faces Kahurangi next weekend for a place in the final.
You can’t ask for more than that. It speaks to the closeness of the competition and the razor-thin difference between playing and watching semi-final rugby this season.
Saturday’s win meant a lot to Kahurangi’s players with coach Brandan Smith saying the Nelson sub-union title was a key focus in their planning for the season.
“It’s huge for us to win the Nelson competition. It’s the first time we’ve won it and you have to go back to 1993 when Riwaka won as the only other time the trophy has been over this way. It will be good to have a week off, rest up, focus and chuck everything into it next weekend, whoever we face,” Smith said.
Central put itself in the box seat to play semi-final rugby with a 24-20 win over Waimea Old Boys on Saturday.
Central blew an early scoring chance that would have seen them score within the opening minute, but from that point forward they appeared in control.
“We ripped in from the start and never really took our foot off the throat,” coach Dave McCormick said.
“I always felt we were in control, even when they scored late to close the game up. Now we just have to go out and win on Saturday and whatever happens happens. We need to go in with the right mindset, stick to our system and what will be will be,” he said.
Wanderers turned in one of the performances of the season to account for Marist 30-5 on Saturday, conceding an early try before scoring 30 unanswered points in a dominant effort.
“We’ve battled against Marist in recent seasons and we just haven’t had the size to combat their physical play. But we’ve got some size of our own this season which meant we could weather the storm and we played smart rugby at their end of the paddock and, even though they defended really well, we were able to wear them down in the end,” coach Glen Grant said.
Meanwhile Stoke’s 74-14 victory over Waitohi may be in vain as it now faces only an outside shot of playing semi-final rugby, however it was a commendable performance following the disappointment of last weekend’s last-minute loss to Marist.
“We wanted to set a few things right after the way it finished last week. We asked our guys to step up and the boys responded which shows what the team is like as a collective. Now we just need to block out the outside noise and control what we can control this weekend,” coach Brad Allam said.
“We’ve got a few guys who won’t be back next year like Steve Kerr who got his 100th cap a few weeks ago, Fergus Hughes who is heading overseas and has been outstanding over the last two years along with a few who are still undecided on their playing futures, so we want to see them all off with a good win this week,” Allam said.
STUFF TASMAN TROPHY POINTS TABLE (After 10 weeks): Kahurangi 41, Waimea Old Boys 37, Marist 30, Central 25, Wanderers 25, Stoke 24, Renwick 16, Waitohi 7, Nelson 7, Awatere/Moutere 5.
Golden Bay Fruit Senior Women
The Golden Bay Fruit Women’s competition resumed over the weekend with Waimea Old Boys and Moutere both recording comfortable victories to set up what amounts to a qualifying final at Moutere this weekend. The two top sides face off to end the round robin with the winner earning the right to host the Grand Final the following weekend.
Waimea Old Boys completed a 38-12 win over the winless Wanderers on Saturday, dominating the opening half to take a 31-5 lead into the halftime break.
“We did what we needed to do. We found some space out wide and scored some good tries particularly in the first half. It was a good team effort and we are continuing to gel as a team. The players are finding combinations now and the trust you need to have is starting to appear,” coach Tom Williams said.
Moutere were also in control of their game against Riwaka, eventually running out 39-17 winners on Friday night. Despite being without a number of key players Riwaka gave as good as they got in what was an entertaining fixture.
Moutere coach Paul Kahui said his team looked the goods when they played at pace.
“It was a bit of a ding dong battle but when we had front-foot ball we were able to find the space and getting go-forward and quick ball was the key,” he said.
“I know both teams will be up for it next week. It means a lot for both teams to play at home in the last game so I think this weekend will be the final before the final,” Kahui said.
GOLDEN BAY FRUIT TASMAN TROPHY – WOMEN (After 8 weeks): Waimea Old Boys Women 14, Moutere 12, Riwaka 6, Wanderers 0.
In Car Company Nelson Bays Division Two action, Collingwood, Huia, Wanderers and Tapawera all registered victories in the Nelson competition while Central, Renwick and Awatere did the same in the Motorworld Marlborough comp.
THE CAR COMPANY DIVISION 2 – NELSON BAYS (After 8 weeks): Collingwood 39, Tapawera 27, Marist 26, Waimea Old Boys Colts 23, Stoke 22, Wanderers 21, Waimea Old Boys 20, Huia 15, Takaka 10, Riwaka 6, Nelson 6.
MOTORWORLD DIVISION 2 – MARLBOROUGH (After 8 weeks): Central 33, Moutere 21, MBC Old Boys 19, Awatere 16, Waitohi 14, Renwick 12, Pelorus 5.