Tasman Trophy Semi-Finalists Confirmed as Central Earn Final Spot
By Nick Jeffrey [Stuff]
Kahurangi will face Central and Waimea Old Boys are set to take on Marist in this Saturday’s Stuff Tasman Trophy semi-finals following a gripping end to the regular season on Saturday.
With the two top sides, Kahurangi and Waimea Old Boys both sitting out the final round on the bye, all eyes centred on the race for third and fourth. Marist did its job with a degree of comfort, banking victory over Renwick to set up yet another finals battle with Waimea Old Boys but the battle for fourth was anything but clear cut, going deep into Saturday afternoon.
Central and Wanderers went into the afternoon tied together on the points table and, having drawn their head-to-head clash earlier in the season, the final spot in this weekend’s top four was likely to come down to points differential.
In the end, after eleven weeks of rugby, semi-final qualification came down to a nine-point margin. Central’s 55-22 win over Waitohi gave it a +91 points difference for the season, while Wanderers fell agonisingly short of that mark at +82 after its 52-14 victory over Awatere/Moutere.
Central coach Dave McCormick was a relieved man when he learned the final results.
“We just concentrated on getting the win, taking five points and sticking to our patterns. We needed to reset at halftime and did a good job in the second half of sticking with it and got the result,” McCormick said.
Now his side’s attention switches to Kahurangi on Saturday with McCormick under no illusions of the challenge in front of his charges.
“They are a really well balanced team but we’ll back ourselves. All the pressure is on them. They have led the competition all year but we won’t be lacking in attitude. We’ll be ready,” he said.
Kahurangi coach Brendan Smith also knows his side is in for a battle this weekend.
“Central is a really physical and confrontational side. Our guys are pumped for it and we’ll make sure we enjoy this week. I feel what we have been doing has been working so we won’t look to change too much and make sure we have our mindset right,” Smith said.
Meanwhile Wanderers coach Glen Grant was philosophical over his side missing out on semi-final rugby.
“When it ends up as close as that it is pretty gutting but we gave it everything. We let a couple of results slip early in the season and with it coming down to points for and against we didn’t score the tries we should have early in the year with a new group that took a while to come together,” Grant said.
“We did our best to keep crossing the line on Saturday. We upped the tempo all game and couldn’t do much else. We basically have played knock-out rugby the last three weeks and the boys really stepped up so our aim now is to keep these guys together and we’ll be a good side next season,” he said.
Marist lined up on Saturday knowing that a single point from the game against Renwick would be enough to lock in third spot on the ladder. It duly delivered with a 29-14 win to set up another postseason battle with Waimea Old Boys.
“We knew we were in for a torrid encounter. Renwick is a good young squad and they play for the full 80 minutes,” Marist coach Gavin Briggs said.
“Part of the objective this week was to focus on the task at hand before we started thinking about a semi-final. We know Waimea as well as they know us. It will be the side that makes and takes its opportunities that wins it. To get a result it’s going to take a squad effort and we’re going to have to fire from 1 to 22,” Briggs said.
Waimea Old Boys’ coach Scott McKenzie had some initial concerns about a last round bye impacting momentum but said the week off was a good chance to reset and recharge for his side.
“It seems like the last ten meetings against Marist have always come down to the last five minutes. They’ve got a big pack and play a very physical game. This week we will hone in on skills and execution. We’ve been playing a decent brand of footy and if we can nail our execution this week we’ll be in with a chance,” McKenzie said.
Two cracking semi-finals can be expected if the corresponding games earlier in the season are anything to go by. Waimea Old Boys and Marist played out a 49-48 thriller when they met over ANZAC weekend while Kahurangi earned a narrow 35-33 win after weathering a late Central comeback in the second week of the competition.
In the other Tasman Trophy game, Stoke ended its campaign with a 24-0 win over Nelson which saw it finish a single point outside the top four, leaving coach Brad Allam, in his final season coaching the club, ruing what might have been.
“As a young group we’ve been taught some tough lessons this year. We lost to Waimea in the 85th minute and Marist in the 80th minute and both those sides are in the top four. We would have been confident if we had made it that we could have gone well but it wasn’t to be,” Allam said.
“The guys have proven they can compete with anyone and with the adversity they have faced they have got stronger and more accurate as the season has gone on. For us, the season has just not been long enough,” he said.
STUFF TASMAN TROPHY POINTS TABLE (After 11 weeks): Kahurangi 41, Waimea Old Boys 37, Marist 35, Central 30, Wanderers 30, Stoke 29, Renwick 16, Waitohi 7, Nelson 7, Awatere/Moutere 5.
Golden Bay Fruit Senior Women
The Golden Bay Fruit Women’s competition also confirmed its finalists, without the drama of the men’s competition. The season’s two dominant forces, Waimea Old Boys and Moutere will meet on Saturday afternoon to determine the 2021 title.
Waimea Old Boys earned top billing and the favourites’ tag ahead of the final, defeating Moutere 26-15 in a dress rehearsal in cold, wet and muddy conditions on Saturday.
If the weather gods hadn’t already made the day challenging enough, both sides had to contend with a half hour stoppage, 25 minutes into the game following a nasty injury which required a long delay.
Moutere opened the scoring before Waimea pulled out to a 19-5 lead which they took into the halftime break after stoutly defending their line leading up to halftime in what turned out to be a crucial period in the game. Moutere spent long periods on attack in the second half before a late Waimea try put the result to bed.
Waimea Old Boys women’s coach Tom Williams said his charges are looking forward to the weekend.
“It took a bit of work but we are stoked especially with how we defended on Saturday. We’ve leaked more points than we should have at times this season but the players really put their bodies on the line and lifted. We will need to do that again this week but if we can turn up like that, I’ve got a lot of trust in our group that we have a team that can win it,” Williams said.
Riwaka ended its season on a high, accounting for Wanderers 41-17 in the other game played on Saturday.
GOLDEN BAY FRUIT TASMAN TROPHY – WOMEN (After 9 weeks): Waimea Old Boys Women 16, Moutere 12, Riwaka 8, Wanderers 0.
In Division Two action, Stoke, Marist, Wanderers, Huia and competition front-runners Collingwood all registered victories in the Car Company Nelson Bays competition while the top three sides in the Motorworld Marlborough comp, Central, Moutere and MBC Old Boys did the same.
THE CAR COMPANY DIVISION 2 – NELSON BAYS (After 9 weeks): Collingwood 44, Marist 31, Stoke 27, Valley Stags 27, Wanderers25, Waimea Old Boys Colts 23, Waimea Old Boys 20, Huia 20, Takaka 10, Riwaka 7, Nelson 6.
MOTORWORLD DIVISION 2 – MARLBOROUGH (After 9 weeks): Central 37, Moutere 26, MBC Old Boys 24, Awatere 16, Waitohi 14, Renwick 12, Pelorus 5.