Disappointment was written all over the face of Tamatea premier rugby coach Matt Marsh on Saturday.
With one round remaining in Hawke's Bay's Tui Maddison Trophy competition before the semifinals Marsh accepted his winless team will have to play in the promotion-relegation game should the division two champions want to play it. The faint hopes Tamatea had of avoiding the game were dashed when they lost 40-17 to MAC at Flaxmere Park.
"The boys are struggling to commit to the premier culture ... I've tried everything with them and I don't know what more I can do. This was the second of three consecutive games we had targeted and while we've got a few injuries we should have still done better. I have to consider sacrificing next week's game now with the aim of making sure everyone is healthy for the promotion-relegation game if it happens," Marsh said.
MAC loosie Matini Atapuna and Larry Olive ran riot for the hosts who turned on an appropriate display for classy first five-eighth Tom Iosefo who played his 50th game. Down 16-0 at halftime Tamatea again produced a better second spell and had hopes of a win when they trailed 21-12.
But they were outscored three tries to one during the final quarter. Utility backs Jimi Harris and Ash Robinson-Bartlett deserved their entries on Marsh's MVP list, as did club chairman Raumoa Timu, a former midfield back who played his first game as prop.
Hastings 29 Pirate 24
In-form prop Paulo Nu'u celebrated his 50th appearance with two tries as Ansin & Monteith Hastings Rugby and Sports kept their semifinal hopes alive with this victory at Tareha Recreation Reserve.
"One of the tries was the winning one. Paulo was our player-of-the-match by far ... the only thing he didn't do was convert that last try," delighted Hastings co-manager James Rosenberg said.
He pointed out the visitors received a boost when Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports prop Kelsey Miller was sinbinned in the 65th minute. Flanker Ben Hamelink was another to shine in the Hastings pack and second five-eighth Ausage Fomai and winger Saifiti Saifiti were the best of the backs.
Fullback Tom Agnew did well to land all four of his attempts at goal. World champion Baby Black Pouri Rakete-Stones jnr, who had stints at hooker and tighthead prop, was the Pirate team's player-of-the-match.
Sinbinning aside, Miller was also full of authority at the coalface. Centre Hayden Hann and winger Brynn Uriarau were a dangerous duo in the hosts backline.
Havelock North 40 Taradale 29
Progressive Meats Havelock North utility back Adam Blake's winning 50th appearance was dedicated to Brendon Edmonds and family following the death of the scrum coach's brother Bryan Edmonds last week.
"We were desperate against our old foe and were near perfect in the first half when we established a 33-7 halftime lead," Villagers statistician Conrad Waitoa said.
Lock Phil McRoberts, in his return after a six-week injury spell, was the hosts' player of the match at Anderson Park. Fellow lock Shane Cusack again proved he has enormous potential.
Second five-eighth Kalin Paewai was strong on defence and devastating on the carry. Carters Frame and Truss Taradale halfback Chris Eaton, who started his premier career with the villagers, deserved a better result in his 100th appearance for the visitors.
Eaton was prominent as Taradale dominated the second half after a halftime-burst from head coach Jason Shoemark. Props Mike McLachlan and Ellery Tareha and captain and No 8 Andrew Gardner were prominent in the maroons' pack.
Tech 41 Central 24
World champion Baby Blacks prop Tim Farrell scored two tries in a player-of-the-match display for Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical in this win at Waipukurau.
Farrell had shifts on both sides of the scrum which was dominant. Hooker Tere Joel and captain and flanker Mark Braidwood also added plenty of grunt to the winning pack.
The Texans backline benefited from the return of All Black Sevens rep Tamati Samuels at first five-eighth following invitation sevens tournaments in Japan. Second five-eighth Ted Walters also scored two tries in another consistent display for the visitors.
Northfuels Central manager Ian Large said both teams contributed to an entertaining spectacle. Flanker Tomo Fogarty and No 8 Ben Carpenter led the host pack by example while Fijian winger Ata Tabuka, in his final appearance before embarking on an overseas contract, and centre Kody Lancaster, were the pick of the Central backs.
NOBM 54 Clive 5
Magpies aspirant Matt Gardner scored three tries during stints at lock and No 8 during this Farndon Park walloping.
"We had a great start and led 33-0 at halftime. Clive came back well and it was a shame they were missing several key players. We know they will be different should we meet them in a semifinal or final," Hawke's Bay Insurances Limited Napier Old Boys Marist head coach Craig Gowler said.
Tighthead prop Jarvy Aoake also had a huge workrate in the NOBM engine room. First five-eighth Johnny Lauano's control was again top-shelf.
"We displayed a bit of character in the first half but the game was well and truly over by then," K9 Petfoods Clive head coach Blair Cross said.
Loosies Lucas Goodin and Beau Tresidder, who was playing his first game in seven weeks, and lock Josh Eden-Whaitiri impressed with their never-say-die approach for the riversiders.