(Above: Reece Calkin breaks free of the Marist defence. Photo Graeme Bowden)
By CHRIS COGDALE https://times-age.co.nz/big-wins-eketahuna-end-drought/
A solid preseason buildup paid off for Pioneer in their local derby with Marist at Memorial Park No.2 on Saturday.
Pioneer pulled away in the final quarter for a convincing victory, which coach Victor Thompson put down to their solid preseason campaign.
“It was all hammer and tongs, and we were probably a bit more battle-hardened with our preseason than they were maybe, and that probably got us over the line,” Thompson said.
Experienced midfielder Nikora Ewe, fullback Reece Calkin, and loose forwards Himiona Haira and Jonte Miller stood out for Thompson.
However, it was debutant first-five Zinny Harmon who impressed and was named player of the day. Fresh out of Wairarapa College, Harmon controlled play well and capped his debut with a brilliant solo try where he beat four defenders in a 20m run to the line.
Thompson believes the win will give the players a lot of confidence, but the key will be to channel that enthusiasm in the right areas.
“We’re just trying to keep the feet on the ground, but definitely, there’s a good feeling now the season is underway; the boys can’t wait.”
East Coast 31
Fijian flair saw Eketahuna to their first victory in more than a season when they held off a fast-finishing East Coast at Eketahuna.
Fullback NImix Baleitabuki scored three tries, and lock Ratu Koroirabudi crossed for two five-pointers in what Eketahuna manager Steve Penn described as a typical Eketahuna – East Coast battle.
Eketahuna led 24-7 at halftime before the Coasties fought back in the second spell.
“It was actually our first game because we had no preseason,” Penn said
“East Coast came back strongly as they always do, and we started to tire a bit. It was a typical East Coast – Eke game, but time ran out for East Coast.”
Penn added the Eketahuna players were relieved to finally get a win on the board.
“We’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory many times, and that’s our first win in a whole season, so we’re happy. And understandably so.”
A strong first half paved the way for a convincing win for Carterton over traditional rivals Greytown at Carterton.
The defending premier champions ran in six tries in a dominant first half, including a hat-trick to big midfielder Siutaka Toamutu, and although they added another three tries in the second half, coach Garth Thomson felt the team lacked consistency.
“Our goal was to try and maintain and be consistent, which we didn’t do in the second half, and it got a bit scrappy, and Greytown came back a bit,” Thomson said.
“We had seven players on debut, and we managed to get them on the field, and it was a good performance across the team.”
Former Petone utility back Ben Brooking, who made two appearances for Wairarapa-Bush in 2022, was player of the day for a solid debut at centre.
James Bruce was a happy coach after his Martinborough side came away from his old stomping ground with a convincing ten-try victory.
Bruce knows how difficult it is to win at Gladstone, having played most of his senior career there, so the commanding nature of the victory will be extra sweet.
Player of the day, winger Shane Colton, ran in a hat-trick, blindside flanker Te Awhiorangi Aranui and Alex Priest scored two tries each, and Josh Matthews, Jack Goodger, and Nathan Hunt also dotted down.
Bruce said it was a consistent effort across the 80 minutes, and although it took a while to get control of the game, once Martinborough did, they ran away with it.
Former Chiefs and Highlanders utility Robbie Robinson impressed in his 70 minutes, initially at first-five and then at fullback, while young midfield back Michael Buick stood out on debut.
Wairarapa Wahine Toa kicked off their Manawatu championship campaign with a hard-fought 33-12 loss to the strong Feilding Old Boys Oroua at Kimbolton.
Tuhirangi made a flying start to the defence of their championship, thrashing Gladstone 58-12, Masterton Red Star were too good for East Coast, cruising to a 43-10 victory, Greytown got the better of Carterton 44-17, and Pioneer held on to beat Marist 24-15.