Although never in doubt, it is official who the first Tasman Tanning Premier team to be relegated to the new Division 2 come June will be, as next weekend's final games of the first round will reveal the other.
While the gap closed up between second through to fifth place, the makeup of the Premier table remained the same this week, and bottom team Black Bull Liquor Pirates will be joining the top four teams from the Senior division in the new-look middle Division 2 after their 46-0 loss to Byford's Readimix Taihape at Spriggens Park.
The visitors missed raising a half century only on goal kicking, as they scored eight tries, which included flanker Matt Brown getting a hat trick.
Halfback James Barrett scored a try and managed three conversions.
With their Senior team away in Waverley, Pirates had a bare starting XV of players, as those who took hard knocks had to be patched up and put back on the field.
There was only one game played in Waverley on Saturday as Waverley Harvesting Border were no doubt annoyed to have to settle for a disappointing default victory over Harvey Round Motors Ratana, who it is understood did not have enough props to play the away match.
Although receiving an automatic five competition points, Border missed the chance to improve their points differential and have a hit-out to work on their combinations heading into the new Division 1 in June.
Ratana will now host what amounts to a promotion/relegation game with Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri at the Pa this Saturday, after the South Taranaki team was out-worked 51-12 by Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau up the Waitotara Valley.
Named at fullback, Karl Pascoe had a match to remember, scoring four tries while reportedly making a very impressive tackle on Ngamatapouri's imposing midfielder Jim Seruwalu, who was one of his team's two tryscorers – the home side having great ball runners but little efficiency in the set piece.
Part of a dominant lineout, lock Josh Lane scored a try and took the opportunity with his team not getting many goal kicks to drop-kick the extras himself.
Ruapehu win Challenge Shield but Marist keep it close
Whanganui Ref column: Is Super Rugby boring?
Marist and Ruapehu big game, Kaierau welcome new patron
Playing against his former club, second-five Te Tua Kemp scored a try and added two conversions, with Kaierau getting a solid workout before their big game with McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu for the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield back at the Country Club this weekend.
With two weekend's left, it's getting tight at the top of the Senior grade in the battle to make the Top 4 for Division 2.
Table leaders Bennett's Taihape emphatically answered the question of whether they could hang onto the Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield when faced with a fellow leading contender, as they travelled down State Highway 1 to upset 2018 champions Kelso Hunterville 36-15.
Up by 19 points at halftime, Taihape finished the match off to get themselves locked into Division 2 no matter what happens in their remaining two games of the first round.
Down in fourth, Hunterville will be nervous, but it could have been worse for them as fifth-placed Counties just couldn't quite get up over third-placed Marist Celtic, who will get more benefit from the nail-biting 10-10 draw at Spriggens Park than the visitors.
Counties scored their converted try in the first half, while Celtic replied in the second stanza as well as an exchange of penalties.
However, Counties have now played all the tough teams above them on the table and have two relatively straightforward home games remaining, whereas Hunterville and Celtic still have a date with each other in their last first round game on Queens Birthday weekend.
Utiku Old Boys maintained second place while all-but resigning Speirs Food Marton to be remaining in Division 3 after travelling down to Marton Park for a no-frills 18-5 victory.
There was a rare Friday night game under lights to start the round as Kaierau hosted Marist Buffalo's for a cross-town derby at the Country Club, running out comfortable 29-8 winners.
In Waverley, Black Bull Liquor Pirates brought a ray of light to what has been a dark time for their club after holding off fellow winless home side Border 31-26.
Results, May 17-18
Tasman Tanning Premier, Week 6
Byford's Readimix Taihape 46 (Matt Brown 3, Dylan Gallien, Beau Walker, James Barrett, Ryan Karatau, Tyler Rogers-Holden tries; Barrett 3 con) bt Black Bull Liquor Pirates 0. HT: 27-0.
Waverley Harvesting Border bt Harvey Round Motors Ratana by default.
Grand Hotel Challenge Shield – McCarthy Transport Ruapehu 34 (Josh Fifita, Kahl Elers-Green, Royce Trow, Cody Scarrow, Te Uti Hakaraia, Troy Brown tries; Mitchell Millar 2 con) bt Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist 27 (Simon Dibben, Peni Nabainivalu tries, penalty try; Haze Reweti 2 pen, con, Ashton Coates con). HT: 22-13.
Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau 51 (Karl Pascoe 4, Ethan Robinson, Clive Stowers, Josh Lane, Joe Edwards, Te Tua Kemp tries; Kemp 2 con, Lane con) bt Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri 12 (Ponti Penicaucau, Jim Seruwalu tries; Josaia Dawai con). HT: 30-5.
Senior, Week 7
At Spriggens Park: Marist Celtic drew with Counties 10-10. HT: 7-0 Counties.
At Kaierau CC: Kaierau bt Marist Buffalo's 29-8. HT: 10-3.
At Waverley: Black Bull Liquor Pirates bt Border 31-26. HT: 14-5.
At Marton Park: Utiku OB bt Speirs Food Marton 18-5. HT: 15-0.
At Hunterville (Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield): Bennett's Taihape bt Kelso Hunterville 36-15. HT: 24-5.