Kaierau end tough Marist season
By Jared Smith
Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist did not die wondering and played their last Tasman Tanning Premier game of 2020 like a quarterfinal, but in the end cross-town rivals Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau ended their season 17-7 on Saturday.
Three blown shoulders on the Marist bench, a couple of all-in jersey pulling melees and two sinbinnings for each side told the story of a physical Spriggens Park derby match – Marist showing a marked turnaround from their 54-0 flogging by Kaierau at the Country Club on August 1.
There was nowhere to hide as even referee Sean Fergusson got hit by the ball twice and accidently knocked over in the close contact exchanges.
The visitors made a handful of personnel changes, some tactical and some injury-forced, but struggled to put the plucky underdogs away; trying to score off second-phase ball rather working with a bit more patience, leading to dropped and forward passes or isolated turnover penalties.
If Marist had more control of the pill in the second quarter of the match, which they camped in Kaierau’s territory, they may have been much better off than 7-7 at halftime, as their semifinal dream fluctuated with the other derby at Memorial Park where McCarthy Transport Ruapehu were also giving Byford Readimix Taihape a stern test.
But sadly for Marist, fourth place hung just perilously out of reach as a win, draw, and bonus-point loss were all on the cards, before the cost of losing three key forwards including two props took a toll.
Kaierau showed three glimpses of their signature backline execution in the whole match and got tries off all of them – as the second half saw the veteran first-five Ace Malo set up winger Karl Pascoe, while fullback and skipper Ethan Robinson moved into the first line to score off a 5m golden oldies scrum win.
It had been looking easy early on when centre Tawera Pouhotaua gave himself a belated 21st birthday present with a try beside the posts, but Marist replied through winger Luke Foster diving full stretch at the corner tryline, with talented fullback Ashton Coates raising the flags from the sideline.
Kaierau No8 Lasa Ulukuta made an impact, hitting young Marist reserve prop Brad McCrea so hard he popped his shoulder out, only for Kaierau lock Matt Ashworth to make contact on the next play to put the joint back into socket.
McCrea’s shoulder went out again and he joined standout lock Lake Ah Chong, who had just walked off with the same issue, while fiery prop Ian Hawkes had already departed for hospital in the first half after he ran straight into three defenders on his umpteenth hit-up, leaving Marist with no enforcers.
Second-five Josiah Bogileka had the finest match of his emotional-charged season for Marist, being a danger on nearly every touch of the ball with line bursts and key offloads.
For the second game in a row, Kaierau had been firmly challenged by an underdog and were not leading at halftime, so co-coach Carl Gibson hoped the reality checks will put them in good stead for their home semifinal with big-match players Taihape.
“Today, that scoreboard, that’s all credit to Marist, they came and they brought passion and wanted to finish their season off well.
“It was pretty messy out there, and you can see by the end of it, there’s a fair bit of passion that goes with it.
“We just didn’t get into our phases and what we do well, and that was a little bit frustrating from my point of view.
“We’ve got a bit of work to do this week, and hopefully we can tidy that up and put it back on track.
“Looks like Taihape’s had a tough game too. We’ve all got walking wounded and things are pretty tough.”
Moving Robinson up into first-five outside Malo proved decisive in helping Kaierau straighten up the backline, although the team missed injured hooker Jack van Bussel at lineout time, Gibson said.
“Pinky [Josh Lane] played pretty well at lock, he was outstanding, Dylan [Bowater] brought it when he came on.
“Lasa played really well until he got injured; he hurt a few people, which is not our intention, but he brings physicality alright.”
Returning in-charge next year to maintain continuity after the Premiers have had three coaches in three seasons, Travers Hopkins was proud of his team’s final dig.
“I said to the boys beforehand, ‘let’s take it to them’, I thought we were guilty last time of letting them dictate the game and run to us.
“Let’s not get bullied, but more so, let’s have some fun, let’s go out there with a bang.”
Losing Hawkes and Ah Chong robbed the side of their dominant forwards at a crucial time.
“That was tough, all my strategy around how we were going to use our bench went out the window in the space of about ten minutes, but that’s footy – you adapt and make do with what you can,” said Hopkins.
“In saying that, I thought our boys never took a back step – I’m not just talking about that melee at the end – I’m talking about what they wanted to play.
“A try or so, it would have been a different result.”
Pouhotaua got payback on his opposite Pati Leo for a great driving tackle after Marist were penalised for driving over the top, and from an attacking scrum and pack drive, the young centre stepped through his man to score in the ninth minute.
However, Kaierau would spend most of the next 20 minutes working out of their own half, being lucky Marist spilled possession or got trapped right when they were threatening, right up until busy flanker Cade Robinson was sinbinned for a professional foul.
Marist immediately exploited their overlap with Bogileka and Leo combining to get Foster outside his marker and diving across for the equaliser.
However, the home side soon had problems of their own in the pack as players started departing hurt while hooker Jack Yarrall was sinbinned just before halftime for knocking away a Kaierau pass with a two-man overlap inside the 22m.
Marist losing two more forwards in the space of three minutes let Kaierau use their loose forwards in the backline off lineout wins, and eventually an attacking scrum saw Malo once again turn the clock back as defenders hung off him – dashing through to put Pascoe away clean in the corner.
More good buildup by Malo and the fresh reserve forwards for Kaierau got their team another attacking scrum, and Ethan Robinson took the pass into the hole and dragged tacklers over for the third try.
But Kaierau were frustrated they could not extend their lead as Marist hung in there grimly, with a frustrated Lane sinbinned inside the last ten minutes for impeding the home side’s free kick, although Marist ultimately finished with 14 men as well when lock Brad O’Leary got in a fight with his opposing forwards right on fulltime.
Kaierau 17 (T Pouhotaua, K Pascoe, E Robinson tries; Robinson con)
bt Marist 7 (L Foster try; A Coates con).