A full strength side for the first time this season has pushed Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist right back on contention for a top four spot in the Tasman Tanning Whanganui premier rugby competition.
Marist had slipped to fifth on the table after a demoralising last minute loss to Black Bull Liquor Pirates last week, but bounced back with a vengence to thrash Waverley Harvesting Border 42-20 at Spriggens Park on Saturday.
The win gave it the Jake Alabaster Memorial Shield for the first time and by adding a bonus point to the tally pushed itself into contention of a semi-final spot with three games to go in round two.
The win was a bit of an upset, but clear evidence of what damage a full strength Marist is capable of.
The Marist forward pack completely dominated the entire game giving a hapless Border simply no chance of even looking likely to threaten at any stage.
Marist hooker Jack Yarrell was by far the most influential figure on the park making devastating foray after foray into Border territory throughout the full 80 minutes and was finally rewarded with his own try just before half time.
Even the sinbinning of Marist No8 Cody Wickham with 20 minutes of the match to go allowed Border a look at victory. The visitors were unable to take advantage and score.
Border began fairly enough and when the competition's top points scorer Nick Harding (fullback) slotted a penalty from 35-metres out after two minutes of play, the visiting fans got vocal.
However, when he missed from 40 minutes out a few minutes later they were not as vocal and neither were they once the Marist forward pressure was applied. To be fair, the forward thrusts were denied a happy ending through forced errors. They did cross on one early occasion only to be held up.
Marist had another chance to put points on the board when Ashton Coates, who was moved from his usual first-five spot to fullback, missed a simple kick from right in front 20 minutes into the game.
It was left to the classy centre Cameron Crowley to put Marist on the board with an excellent try after seemingly walking through the defence. Coates made no mistake with the conversion to make it a 7-3 scoreline. With 12 minutes left on the clock until the break, Marist received a penalty and Border were marched 10 for backchat to the referee. Coates again made no mistake putting the score out to 10-3 to the home side.
A Tofa drop goal from 40m out would unluckily hit the uprights, but then luck went Border's way when halfback Josh Lennox crossed for a try and Harding converted to even the score at 10-10. Marist replied with a Coates penalty kick from 38m out followed soon after by a fine try from prop Viki Tofa. which was converted right on time to give Marist the edge at 20-10.
Five minutes into the second spell Harding slotted a penalty to bridge the gap to 20-13, but then it all went pretty much pear-shaped for the visitors.
The Marist forwards again took control creating quality ball for well-credentialed first-five Peni Nabaininvalu to score. The try was unconverted leaving the scoreboard locked on 25-13. Then came Yarrell's try and the bonus point bringing score to 32-13 after the conversion.
Marist winger Luke Foster added to the tally with an unconverted try to take the score to 37-13. Coates then added salt to the wound with an outstanding solo run to the corner from half way. He failed to convert his own try leaving the score at 42-13.
Border had the final say when No8 Ranato Tikoisolomone crossed in the corner with 50 seconds on the clock. Harding converted to bring the final score to 42-20.
Marist coach Jerome McCrea said the result was extremely satisfying after fielding his first full strength side this season.
"We should really have beaten Pirates last week, but this was especially satisfying," McCrea said.
"It's our first full strength side this year and while we did talk about this game being do or die for us on Tuesday, it was something we consciously worked on. The guys knew, they didn't have to be told and they simply went about their business today. I'm looking forward to the lead up to the semis now."
Border coach Ross Williams heaped praise on his rivals while ruing missed chances on the day.
"We are a broken team at the moment. I think we had out chances in the first half when we defended well, but Marist just wanted it more, simple as that," Williams said.
"We were up against a hungry side and their forwards dominated the game. I think now they are back to full strength they can give this competition a real shake, they are the dark horses."
Marist 42 (Cameron Crowley, Viki Tofa, Peni Nabainivalu, Ashton Coates, Jack Yarrall, Luke Foster tries, Coates 2 pen, 3 con) bt Border 20 (Josh Lennox, Ranato Tikoisolomone tries, Nick Harding 2 pen, 2 con). HT: 20-10 Marist.