The Marlborough rugby sub union semifinalists are decided.
Top-qualifiers Waitohi will meet fourth-placed Renwick in one of the play-off games on Saturday July 13, while Central will meet East Coast in the other.
The play-off pecking order was finalised on Saturday, despite there being another week of round-robin play remaining.
Although the remaining games will have no bearing on the shape of the semifinals, teams which bring momentum into the business end of the season are traditionally more successful.
That leaves Waitohi and Renwick in a happy space after Saturday’s home games.
Waitohi continued their perfect sequence of wins over Marlborough opponents this season with a 26-23 victory over Central in Picton, while Renwick came out on top of a 13-try scoring spree at the Renwick Domain, notching a 49-36 win over East Coast.
The Green Machine led by just nine points at the end of a see-sawing first half, having scored four converted tries to the Coasters’ three tries and two conversions.
Immediately after the break the visitors scored again to close the gap to four points, whereupon Renwick raised their game and shot out to a 42-24 advantage.
However, the resilient East Coasters were not finished, scoring twice in the final 10 minutes to reduce the margin to 42-36, before a Jayden Lister touchdown sealed the deal in the final minutes.
Outstanding for the Green Machine were hooker Sione Lonitenisi, flanker Cody Weir, winger Zac Harrison-Jones and centre Michael Vaeno. Best of the Coasters were midfielder Sione Veau, lock Jordan Judge, flanker Sam Houston and fullback Sam Westenra.
Renwick head coach Glen Blackmore said his side had talked during the week about the importance of stringing wins together and creating momentum.
“At this time of year it’s about winning games and we are trying to put a more settled XV on the paddock.
“We beat Marist a few weeks ago but never backed it up the following Saturday, so it was important we kept on a roll today after our win over Central.”
Renwick seem to have little trouble scoring points, but they also leak a few, something Blackmore is acutely aware of.
“We have put a lot more effort [at training] into our defence of late but we continue to give away soft tries, particularly after scoring points. It’s something we are working on.”
Now they have booked a semifinal place, Blackmore feels Renwick have as much chance as any other of going all the way.
“On any given day anyone can beat anyone else – it’s just about having the right mind set. We have been to the bottom of the well this season, but we have got out of it and I feel that poor start to the season has probably galvanised us. We have always had the belief.”
Meanwhile, in Picton, top-qualifier Waitohi continued their perfect record against Marlborough opposition this season, scoring a narrow 26-23 victory over Central.
Central went out to an early 15-0 advantage with a couple of long-range tries, but the home side clawed it back to lead 19-18 at halftime.
Both teams scored a try apiece in the second 40, which ended with the Blues hard on attack. However, once again Waitohi found a way to get the job done.
Best of the home town crew were the 80-minute front row of Duane Aholelei, Losi Malimali and Manu Mataele, plus loosies Rocky Leofo and Taine Cragg-Love, midfielder Daniel Samita and fullback Fetuli Paea. Mako utility Tim O’Malley returned for the final 20 minutes after a stint in the USA.
Central’s players of the day were Logan Robinson, utility back Timoci Tavatavanawai and centre Jake Cresswell.
Waitohi player/coach Jimmy Giles said that while it was disappointing to make such a slow start to the match the way they clawed back into it was impressive.
“We have come out on the right side of several close ones this year … we are not panicking and have that trust in each other.”
On Saturday, Waitohi travel to Seddon for the final round robin match, with two trophies at stake – the Marlborough sub union Challenge Cup, held by the Tohis, and the Tasman-wide John Goodman Challenge Trophy, held by East Coast.
Scores: Renwick 49 (Zac Harrison-Jones 2, Quinn Harrison-Jones, Michael Vaeno, Jayden Lister, Sione Lonitenisi, Jan Hasenlechner tries, Michael Dillon 7 con) East Coast 36 (Arapeta Tawa, Sam Houston 2, Tiko Onolevu, Usaia Mara, Ben Filipo, Myles Hamilton 3 con). HT: 28-19 Renwick.
Waitohi 26 (Jack Evans, Daniel Samita, Taimi Fangatua 2 tries, Corey Bovey 3 con) Central 23 (Josh Chapman, Simi Volavola, Timoci Tavatavanawai tries, Glen Smith con, 2 pen)
Standings: Waitohi 43, Central 33, East Coast 29, Renwick 23, Moutere 13.
Next week: East Coast v Waitohi at Seddon; Moutere v Renwick at Awarua Park. Central a bye.