The Whanganui men's unbeaten run on top of Hockey Manawatu's Premier Reserve Men's grade is all but guaranteed to extend out to the full ten matches after their big 6-0 win over the second-placed Massey Reserves at McDonald's Stadium on Saturday.
Whanganui's imposing record moved to 9-0 with 41 goals scored to only eight conceded, although in the race to finish in the Top 2 and qualify for the middle division in the final round, alongside the two relegated Premier teams, Massey Reserves were thrown a lifeline.
Marton HC lost 5-4 to College B down at the Twin Turfs, keeping the Massey Reserves now one competition point ahead of College and two points in front of Marton with one game left in the second round.
Well above that scrabble, Whanganui's only concern on Saturday was rotating in enough noteworthy players from their ever-changing roster to make sure everyone has played at least three matches, making them eligible under Hockey Manawatu rules to appear in any end-of-season playoffs.
Chad Warner came back into the lineup, as did Lee Moir on the reserves bench for another appearance after focusing on rugby for most of the winter.
"Just trying to get the guys who have committed to other things, to get through the three games so they can play when the big things are coming up," said senior player Calum Wilbur.
James Craig got the opening goal, and then in a recurring theme, Warner scored in the second quarter off a straight strike from a short corner – as Whanganui's set piece would be strong all match.
In the third quarter, Matt Forward scored off another short corner, while Craig picked up a double with a shot in open play.
Whanganui then blew the score out in the final quarter as Tony Gilbertson added his name to the scorers sheet and Hamish Bielby got his goal with a drag flick off another short corner.
"It was a pretty pleasant game, until the end when the tackling got a bit bad," said Wilbur.
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Whanganui were the first offenders, with Massey Reserves retaliating when they weren't called by the umpires.
The final match of the second round will be at the Twin Turfs against winless High School Hockey Club B (0-1-8), who have only found the goal-mouth five times this year compared to 42 conceded, which included a 6-0 loss to Whanganui on May 18.
Wilbur said work commitments mean they will probably only travel with a starting lineup and perhaps one reserve, but given how well the team's youngsters have been playing, they should wrap up a perfect Premier Reserve record.
"We're going to speak of this year for years to come, we're going to be ten from ten."
At that point, they will go into the 'Middle Division', although Wilbur said they have still not heard from Hockey Manawatu if they will play a straight round-robin with the other three teams to find the winner, or incorporate semifinals or even a straight final for 1 vs 2.
Nor will Whanganui know exactly who their opponents will be coming down for the top grade until after the final round of Premier this Saturday.
The winless Palmerston North Boys High, who got to stay in Premier ahead of them at the start of the year, are the one certainty.
However, three other teams in the Massey Premiers, Marist Wolverines and HSHC A are all on the bubble, with Massey three points behind but facing PNBHS, while the Wolverines and HSHC A had tough games against Levin and College A respectively.
"[Coming down] it could be HSHC A, who have Craig Hilbourne, Hayden Mullen and Zach Yearbury," said Wilbur, name checking Whanganui's former clubmates from the old Tech College Old Boys team.
In the Women's Premier, it was a tough lesson for the Whanganui women against the second-placed High School Hockey Club A, who ran up a 5-0 win at Gonville.
After holding table leaders College A to a 1-1 draw down at the Twin Turfs last week, Whanganui had hoped to keep the momentum going, but HSHC A had brought back a couple of key players missing from previous games and executed well.
"We probably allowed them a little bit too much space," said captain Colleen Baylis.
"Their score should have been a little bit higher. Sienna really kept us in it."
Goalkeeper Sienna King kept the scoreline down with a strong game despite the volume of shots coming at her, while Lucy Tui did well at the back, as did midfielder Helen Chapman and Teagan O'Hara up front.
"It wasn't all one-way traffic, we had our chances," said Baylis.
Whanganui will finish the second round of games against the Massey Premiers at the Twin Turfs on Saturday, the team they defeated 3-0 back on May 18.
Women's Premier just carries on as a straight three rounds, with Whanganui only needing to maintain fourth place to make the semifinals.