Central clinched top position for the forthcoming Marlborough sub union division one rugby play-offs with a resounding win over Awatere at Lansdowne Park on Saturday.
The Blues underlined their championship credentials with a 45-19 victory, scoring seven tries as their backs and forwards combined superbly to produce a free-flowing, clinical display.
With hooker Jesse MacDonald, flankers Braden Stewart and Siatoki Baker, midfielders Jake Cresswell and Timoci Tawatawanawai, plus lock Jesse Eising and prop Peter Vakaloa to the fore they played with the confidence that accompanies an unbeaten side.
First five Mitch Smith was content to move the ball quickly to his outsides, who were often given too much time and space by the Awatere defensive line.
Ahead 31-7 at halftime, Central conceded an early try to the Tussocks in the second spell, but soon replied with a couple of their own to put the result beyond doubt.
Awatere were gallant, scoring three tries in reply, but could not match their opponent’s flair and ability to convert opportunities into points. When they were able to work their way into a position close to Central’s line they were clinical, but were not so much of a threat from long range. Their best were Jack Roberton, hooker Jake Collins, flanker Will Chaffey, fullback Franco Quinones, plus midfielders Sione Vea and Ben Filipo, the latter suffering what appeared to be a season-ending knee injury in the second spell.
Although there is still a round of preliminary matches to be played, Central are assured of top position for the semis, with the match to be played at their home ground.
In the other division one match played on Saturday, Waitohi got the better of Moutere 29-22 at Awarua Park.
In what Waitohi player/coach Jimmy Giles described as “another tight battle with our country cousins”, the Picton-based side led throughout the match. Two first half converted tries, plus a penalty to Tim O’Malley, saw the Tohis ahead 17-7 at the break. Although three unconverted second half tries to the home side kept the pressure on throughout, the defending champs scored twice more and had enough in hand to take the honours.
Flanker Taine Cragg-Love was outstanding for the victors, who got good value from some of their lesser-utilised players this season, such as lock Vance Pook.
The result ensures Waitohi will play Renwick, at Renwick, on one semifinal while the bonus points gained by the Magpies pushes them two points ahead of Awatere in the race for the fourth play-off position. They meet at Spring Creek next weekend to decide who will progress to the semis, where they will come up against Central.
Standings: Central 32, Renwick 25, Waitohi 23*, Moutere 8, Awatere 6. * Waitohi have a bye next weekend.
In division two action Central beat Awatere 62-5 at Lansdowne, Moutere hammered Pelorus 64-19 at Awarua Park and Renwick went down 34-7 to MBC Old Boys in Renwick.
Standings: Central 20, MBC Old Boys 14, Awatere 10, Moutere 10, Renwick 5, Pelorus 0.
Meanwhile the MBC First XV crashed down to earth with a thud after their gallant University of Canterbury championship win over Christ’s College last weekend.
On Saturday they were well beaten, 56-10, by the powerful Christchurch Boys’ High School side in Christchurch.
MBC continue to languish in 11th place on the 14-team table.
Other scores: Timaru 55 Mid Canterbury 12; St Bede’s 44 Roncalli 22; Christ’s College 48 Waimea 18; St Andrew’s 43 Lincoln 5; St Thomas 20 Rangiora 17.
Division one scores:
Central 45 (Jesse MacDonald, Timoci Tavatavanawai 2, Jesse Eising, Jake Cresswell, Siatoki Baker, Solomoni Tui tries, Mitch Smith 5 con) Awatere 19 (Brogan Matthews, Jack Roberton, Blair Loughton tries, Franco Quinones 2 con). HT: 31-7.
Waitohi 29 (Dylan Burns, Sione Kapeli, Gannon Karena, Vance Pook tries, Tim O’Malley pen, 2 con, Dylan McManaway con) Moutere 22 (Luke Scott, Kirisimasi Vaimea, Laurie McGlone, Amco Cassidy, Cassidy con). HT: 17-7 Waitohi