It was strong set piece vs no set piece as Waverley Harvesting Border continued their undefeated streak in the annual duck shooting night game with a no frills 41-14 win over Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri on Friday.
Playing the game under lights at Dallison Park for the third year in a row, Ngamatapouri had the numbers and enough energy in the tank to play for the full 80 minutes, scoring both their tries in the final quarter.
But what they did not have was the grinders and the tradesmen to play territory rugby in the cool, dewy conditions.
Border took about three tightheads off Ngamatapouri's scrum, while standout lock Jack Hodges batted down half a dozen of the visitor's throws to his side, with only his sinbinning in the last two minutes spoiling an otherwise fine evening's work.
Ngamatapouri also lost hooker Bidago Samutanavanua to a yellow card shortly before halftime, leading to Border's opening try and a 13-0 lead from which they never looked back.
Kieran Hussey is beginning to settle into Border's hooker role, because while his lineout throws still need a little more practice, his workrate around the field like another loose forward remains as strong as ever.
Halfback Lindsay Horrocks showed no ill effects from his head knock a fortnight ago, marshalling the troops and scoring two tries by punching through the giant holes left by his forwards.
Fullback Nick Harding and first-five Jack Lupton had complete kicking superiority in general play, while they inflated the scoreline with a 100 per cent goal record.
Harding had not initially been expected to play, like flanker Angus Middleton, but both made themselves available with the latter coming on to score in the third quarter when Border's weight of possession began to tell and they stepped up a gear.
Ngamatapouri had their chances in the first half, but solid Border tackling and rushing up smartly on the dangerous backline spoiled the visitor's chances, not to mention influential No 8 Bryn Hudson limping out of the match at halftime.
Flanker Samu Kubunanvanua was trying to do everything from covering the sweeper position for kicks, attacking off a distintergrating scrum and claiming throws at the back of lineout, while he scored a fine 35m try by running over tacklers.
Second-five and captain Russiat Vukula lined up Border for bone rattling hits.
But without the same ability to kick for distance and get secure ball in the pack, they were only holding back the tide.
"It was really scrappy, we had real set piece dominance," said Border coach Ross Williams.
"We just have to stay in our structure for longer, and show patience."
Knowing that defending champions McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu are looming on the horizon, Williams was annoyed at the raft of penalties his team gave away at the very end of the match, letting Ngamatapouri stay on offence for once and get the final try.
"If we just stay in our defensive shape, we were in control. We were scrappy when we didn't need to be."
Neither team were able to get into the 22m of the other much in the opening 30 minutes, but Border had Harding to connect with two long-range penalties, while Ngamatapouri's Sheldon Parkinga-Manhire was away with a similar attempt.
Samutanavanua's departure saw Border take a 5m scrum, which twisted backwards over the line, so lock Jon Smyth just reached down to score.
Border began to play more in Ngamatapouri's 30m after the break, forcing them into rushed clearing kicks up the middle of the field, which were quickly run back at them.
The ball was spread wide as centre Anaru Haerewa made a hit up, setting up Horrocks to dash through to score.
Reserve winger Tom Symes returned another Ngamatapouri clearance, followed on Horrocks and Hodges, before the forwards dealt the ball between them to set up Middleton dragging two defenders over the line.
Middleton snuffed out a rare chance for Kubunavanua with a good tackle, but on the next attempt the Fijian flanker ran over him and through three more defenders to score beside the posts.
But Ngamatapouri losing their lineout and scrum ball let Border get close again, as Haerewa beat a tackle and linked with Symes, then Haerewa had another crack off a long pass from Horrocks, with Hussey taking the ball at the tryline and diving low to score.
Horrocks got his double with five minutes left after the Border pack drove from the lineout, and the stretched Ngamatapouri defence rushed up early, leaving the halfback a wide gap to slip through.
But then Border made a series of infringements and the visitors had enough time left for reserve Josia Dawai to dive over after the breakdown on the tryline, which he then converted.
Border 41 (L Horrocks 2, J Smyth, A Middleton, K Hussey; N Harding 2 pen, 2 con, J Lupton 3 con) bt Ngamatapouri 14 (S Kubunavanua, J Dawai tries; S Parkinga-Manhire con, Dawai con). HT: 13-0.