Integrity Motors Pirates turned it on against old rivals Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau to keep themselves in prime position to earn the remaining home semifinal spot after a 41-14 win at Spriggens Park on Saturday.
Avenging their upset loss in Round 1 on May 10, Pirates scored six tries with productive winger Clive Stowers now likely to finish the regular season on top of the tryscoring list as his hat-trick kept him tied on 13 with Waverley Harvesting Border’s Sikeli Ulukuta, who also scored three tries up the road at Dallison Park.
Pirates and Border’s bonus point wins opened up a further gap on Taihape, who just got home 14-10 against Utiku Old Boys in the Memorial Park derby.
Always a tough match no matter how far apart the neighbouring clubs sit on the table, Taihape were also without their maestro first-five Tom Wells, with the Whale brothers Dane and Luke taking over the kicking duties.
The current table means the most likely line-up for the semifinals, after the final round-robin games this Saturday, is McCarthy’s Ruapehu will face Taihape at Ohakune, while Pirates will claim the second home semifinal spot to play Border at Spriggens Park.
The only outcome that would rearrange this, other than a Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist upset of Pirates, would be if Taihape could beat Ruapehu in Ohakune this weekend while gaining a four-try bonus and a winning margin over 13 points.
Having seen their own championship semifinal ambitions fizzle in the last fortnight, Harvey Round Motors Ratana still earned Rangitikei sub-union bragging rights for 2014 despite customarily fading in the second half hanging on to a 24-20 win at the Paa over Speirs Food Marton.
Ratana’s captain prop Vaan Rauhina scored two tries in a strong derby match, moving himself to third on the season’s MVP points table, although that honour will go to Border’s halfback Lindsay Horrocks unless his Ruapehu rival William Short turns in a big performance against Taihape this Saturday.
In the Senior championship, Border saw their hopes of breaking into the Top 4 nose-dive as despite good form in the last fortnight, they were well beaten 36-0 at Dallison Park by Marist Celtic.
However, a hapless Trans Pacific Pirates could only dream of a scoreline like that against them after Power Farming (PN) Hunterville came within one try of racking up a humiliating century of points, destroying the visitors 96-7 in their Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield defence.
Hunterville rebounded from the previous weekend’s draw with Border and are looking right in line to claim a sixth-straight title.
The semifinalists for the Senior consolation had already long since sorted themselves out, with Counties and Marton still most likely to fight out the major honours in the grade after picking up wins over Kaierau (37-10) and Ratana (32-17) respectively.
By Jared Smith – WANGANUI CHRONICLE