Waverley Harvesting Border slipped to clear third on the Tasman Tanning Wanganui premier rugby table after a narrow three point loss to McCarthy's Ruapehu at Rochfort Park in Ohakune on Saturday.
In a repeat of last season's premiership final, Ruapehu again pipped the visitors after Border made most of the early running.
Ruapehu was without regulars Gabriel Hakaraia, Mitchell Millar and George Williams, and maybe smarting from last weekend's loss to Taihape, but they came to the game against Border with spirit and passion and that never abated.
Both teams played well, and the huge crowd on sponsor's day was well rewarded. Border surprised Ruapehu with an early try to Angus Middleton, the first of two on the day for him.
Ruapehu replied after 20 minutes, with some skilful team work passing out to Will King to touch down in the corner.
At 27 minutes Border broke the defence and converted a try. Ruapehu replied bringing the score to 12-all with a try from Kahl Elers-Green. After camping on Ruapehu's line for some time Border swung wide to score in the corner and convert two minutes before half time to bring score to 19-12.
Ruapehu stepped up a notch in the second half, and after sustained effort by a determined forward pack eventually broke through to put Jack Kinder over to bring Ruapehu into within two points. Both teams continued to play well, defending each other's lines and interrupting back play with hard tackles.
However, Ruapehu had the final say with a try finished off by Corey Carmichael down the side-line to bring the score to 22-19. Border almost had the final say when their flying Fijian centre Kaveni Dabonaise was off down the side-line. Will King slowed him up and he was surprisingly caught by prop Te Uhi Hakaraia.
The win leaves Ruapehu and unbeaten Black Bull Liqour Pirates (four wins and a draw) on 20 points at the top of the table with Border on 16.
Pirates retained the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield after its 23-17 win over PGG Wrightson-Balance Taihape at Memorial Park.
At Marton Park Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri chalked up its first win of the season and earning a bonus point after beating Harvey Round Motors Ratana 31-17. Ratana has yet to win a match this year.