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Hunterville reclaim senior title in commanding performance

Hunterville are Wanganui Rugby senior champions again after beating Marist Celtic at Cooks Gardens on Saturday. Photo / Stuart Munro

Much of the opening quarter was an arm-wrestle played out in the middle of the park.

Marist did manage to bash their way to within range but at least five times Hunterville won ruck turnover inside their own 22m.

There only real shot Marist had at first-half points came through a long range penalty kick which didn’t go the distance.

In the second quarter Hunterville finally started to string attacking phases together and they got immediate reward with a penalty from the boot of Leigham Harding 24 minutes into the match.

With halftime closing in Hunterville turned down a shot a doubling that lead, opting to kick for touch on Marist’s 22m.

Hunterville shifted the ball across Cooks Gardens, only the attempted intercept of Marist’s Michael Flood, stopping a sure try in the corner.

Hunterville won a free kick from the resulting scrum and a quick tap finished with Scott Parkes crashing over for the Rangitikei club’s opening try.

Harding slotted the conversion to round out an impressive half for Hunterville.

Errors were costing Marist and a glaring example was turning down an easy penalty and a chance to get something on the board just after the break.

Marist Celtic’s Bronson Tumai fends of the tackle of Hunterville’s Hamish Mackay and Sean Kelly. Photo / Stuart Munro

Instead they opted for touch only for Ben Toyne to fluff the kick over the dead ball line.

Soon after, Harding’s second penalty stretched his side’s lead to 13-0 and then Hamish MacKay snuck through a gap in the Marist defence at close range to put Hunterville 18 ahead at 54 minutes.

Harding’s conversion put his side firmly in control followed by his third penalty which put the match further beyond doubt.

Marist had shown a glimmer in patches but it wasn’t until the dying minutes they put on two quick unconverted tries through Jimmy O’Donnell and Rory Grant to avoid a shut-out.

“They gave us a bit of a touch up there a couple of weeks back so we were in no doubt it was going to be a tough game,” Hunterville coach Richard Ash said.

“Ultimately our defence has won it for us. We’re usually one of the smaller teams so we tried to move them around a bit and run them off their feet, really. But they certainly didn’t run out of puff.”

Ash said it was great to be able to bring the title back to the club after three years.

“It’s a great club and we get great support from the community.”

*Hunterville 23 (Hamish MacKay, Scott Parkes tries, Leigham Harding 3 pen, 2 con) bt Marist Celtic 10 (Jimmy O’Donnell, Rory Grant tries). HT: 10-0

Zaryd Wilson is a reporter for the Wanganui Chronicle
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