Relief was written all over the face of Havelock North second five-eighth and captain Kalin Paewai after Saturday's eighth round in Hawke's Bay's Maddison Trophy premier club rugby competition.
"It's pretty special to make the semifinals in our 125th anniversary year after missing out the last couple of years," Paewai said following their 24-6 victory against Tanalised Napier Pirate Rugby and Sports at Anderson Park.
Regardless of what happens in their final round robin match against Taradale next weekend the villagers will meet the top qualifiers, which are expected to be Napier Old Boys Marist, in the July 13 semifinals.
"That was our first 80 minute effort of the season today. We showed we can start properly unlike last weekend against NOBM when we were 33-0 down at halftime. If we can take today's start into our next outing against NOBM we will compete with them," Paewai said.
"It was good to qualify in front of Craig today too ... he has given us a lot of money and kept this club going," Paewai added, referring to Craig Hickson of the club's major sponsor Progressive Meats who has sponsored the club for the past 23 year.
One of the club's anniversary jerseys was presented to Hickson as a token of the club's appreciation of his support. Havelock North No 8 Alby Hemopo, a member of the Magpies wider training group, was inspirational in the villagers' victory.
Prop Paea Taulanga scrummaged well on both sides of the scrum and halfback Trent Hape and winger Mikey Vuicakau were enterprising backs. Errors at vital times proved costly for the Pirate side which had to beat their hosts and deny them any competition points to keep their slim semifinal hopes alive.
First five-eighth Ted Symes was the pick of the Pirate players. Lock Damien Scott, blindside flanker Tom Nicol and prop Pouri Rakete-Stones had massive workrates in the visiting pack.
NOBM 90 Clive 31
WIT Napier Old Boys Marist showed how keen their are to capture the Tui Maddison Trophy again with this Park Island walloping of the defending champions.
"While our forwards played well their backs were too classy with the likes of Stacey Ili and Sam McNicol," Tremains Andrew Clark Clive manager Ted Tautau said.
"We don't have the depth in the backline and really struggled," he added.
NOBM head coach Craig Gowler had every right to be happy with the step his lads took towards being the likely top qualifiers but at the same time praised the effort of the Clive forwards. Fullback Saia Paese, who scored five tries, was the Green Machine's player-of-the-match. Loosies Hannon Brighouse and Ricky Hayes were the best of the NOBM forwards.
Lock Donovan Mataira and openside flanker Josh Kaifa were full of authority in the Clive pack and second five-eighth Jesse Tuhua was the pick of the visitors backs.
Taradale 66 Central 22
Former Blues and Northland prop Namatahi Waa provided plenty of grunt for Taradale Rugby and Sports in this Tareha Recreation Reserve victory.
"Namatahi has settled in the Bay with the aim of making the Magpies in the future and he's got the goods. As a team we continued the momentum of recent weeks," Taradale co-coach Tim Combs said.
Hooker Jacob Baker also impressed in the Mighty Maroons pack and second five-eighth Lester Maulolo had his best of the season for the hosts. While Northfuels Central manager Ian Large heaped kudos on the all round strength of their opponents, he said the visitors could still take plenty of positives out of the encounter.
Promising loosehead prop Cam Pratt, No 8 Finau Nimatasau and fullback Kodie Drury-Hawkins all made Large's MVP list.
Hastings 47 MAC 12
Hurricane Danny Toala and Highlander Folau Fakatava displayed the benefits of their Super Rugby experience for Auto Super Shoppe Hastings Rugby and Sports in this Flaxmere Park drubbing.
Toala had stints at centre and first five-eighth and used his tremendous pace and lethal step on his way to two tries. Halfback Fakatava took the field as a 50th minute substitute and increased the tempo.
His Highlanders teammate Marino Mikaele-Tu'u will return to the side this week.
Tighthead prop Aleki Vuki was powerful in the winning pack. Hastings manager James Rosenberg said his lads will have to improve their lineout work before the semifinals.
MAC head coach Anthony Morley said the hosts struggled to retain possession and failed to execute their game plan in a clash well controlled by international referee Rebecca Mahoney. MAC lock Everard Reid ruled the lineouts and loosies Willie Benson and Fa'alemiga Selesele shone with their never-say-die approach. Halfback Johnny Ika and utility Tom Iosefo were an enterprising pair in the MAC backline.
Tech 59 Tamatea 21
Altherm Window Systems Napier Technical escaped the threat of playing in the promotion-relegation match with this Bill Mathewson Park victory.
"We had to win and we managed to get on top during the final quarter," Texans manager Cyril Whitburn said.
Halfback Simon Quickfall scored four tries for the visitors and joined second five-eighth Ted Walters as the best of the Tech backs. Captain and lock Elijah Martin again led the Tech forwards by example.