Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist's hope of keeping their destiny in their own hands for making the Tasman Tanning Division 1 playoffs were virtually waved away after only sixty seconds of play at Spriggens Park on Saturday.
Almost straight after the kickoff in their must-win game with Waverley Harvesting Border, incumbent Steelform Wanganui prop Viki Tofa was given a red card, and with Marist having to defend a man down for 79 minutes without the linchpin front-rower, the die was cast as the visitors ran away with a 46-0 victory.
Border's third straight win locked them into the second home semifinal spot with the always-tough away match against Byford's Readimix Taihape remaining, while they retained the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield and got payback on Marist for the 27-25 loss back on April 13.
In that Waverley match it was injuries, suspension and the lure of attending the Sydney Cup which kept away many of Border's key players, but the squad which came to Spriggens is very much back at full strength and looking well-rounded.
They scored eight tries with Vereniki Tikoisolomone moving back from centre to the wing and picking up a double, along with both the flankers Jason Myers and Angus Middleton dotting down.
At centre, Craig Clare returned from his excursion to the Czech Republic with the NZ Ambassadors XV to dot down, while fullback Nick Harding returned from injury and added three conversions.
Captain Lindsay Horrocks, like Tikoisolomone, scored his fourth try in two games, with Border now running hot after raising 160 points in their last 160 minutes of rugby.
The bulk of that was through of last weekend's 114-5 destruction of Harvey Round Motors Ratana, with the Whanganui Chronicle's online headline for the match report about that 18 tries to one massacre attracting much derision on the Facebook social media platform from hurt Ratana supporters, along with a few "trolls".
It appeared things would not get better for the home side back in the Pa, as the team without a head coach prepared for the arrival of a McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu side wanting to guarantee a home semifinal with five competition points.
Instead it would appear Tawhirimatea, the Maori god of weather, played his hand as the wet and cold weather left the Pa ground, rebuilt for this season, in a heap of mud, while a strong cross wind prevented Ruapehu from running the speedy attacks which Border favoured on their dry track last week.
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In fact, given Ratana's tough situation, Ruapehu chose to be very sporting – using their regular bench players in the starting lineup, and following two quick converted tries after halftime for a 34-0 scoreline and the required bonus point, the visitors and their hosts opted to call the match off early, removing the possibility of yet another 'cricket score'.
In mud so thick that a few spectator cars later had to get pushed out of the sideline area, Ruapehu's Mitchell Millar scored the opening try, with fellow outside backs Tautahi Rawiri and Troy Brown both crossing in the next 14 minutes.
Brown got his double just before halftime, and when Rawiri grabbed his brace straight after the break and halfback Kahl Elers-Green quickly followed up with another try, it was mutually agreed that nothing more could be gained.
Taihape only getting a bonus point out of their impossibly tight game with Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau means Ruapehu will come down to Spriggens Park next week to face a Marist team which still has a mathematical chance of making the semifinals, depending on the Border vs Taihape result.
Uncatchable by Marist, Kaierau will likewise be interested in the Memorial Park game, as they will now head to the Pa hunting the prerequisite five points to have an outside chance at earning a home playoff game.
In Division 2, Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri seem most likely to finish in top spot as they again made their Waitotara Valley ground a graveyard for a team promoted out of the Senior competition – smashing Counties 87-12.
Having lost for the first time this season against Ngamatapouri last week, Bennett's Taihape kept second spot on the table, but not without an absolute arm wrestle as they held back Utiku Old Boys 10-6 in another rugged Memorial Park derby.
Taihape scored an unconverted try in each half, offsetting Utiku's two penalties in the first 40 minutes, but Old Boys drove their way out of their 22m and deep into the attacking half with time up on the clock, before finally infringing at the breakdown for the ball to be booted out for fulltime.
Utiku's bonus point has still left them safe for the semifinals, as Black Bull Liquor Pirates ended Marist Celtic's playoff aspirations with their 36-19 win in the Spriggens Park derby game.
There were a couple of surprises in Division 3, including one at Marton Park that mathematically could give Speirs Food Marton a chance to sneak up and take the inaugural title from Kelso Hunterville.
Marton, who had lost 33-12 to Hunterville in the opening Senior round on March 30, came from nine points down at halftime to their eastern neighbours to draw their home match 19-19.
Therefore, they remain five points behind Hunterville on the table, but Marton have not yet received their automatic five points from the Pirates Seniors defaulting the season, as they were on the bye of the first Division 3 weekend before that occurred.
Marton now travel to play Counties Brothers, while Hunterville's last game is at home to the Border Seniors, who after 12 straight losses, finally became the last Wanganui club team to register a victory in 2019.
Border travelled to the Racecourse ground beside Spriggens Park and came from behind at halftime to defeat home team the Marist Buffalo's 29-27.
And at the Country Club, the Kaierau Seniors made it a day for their club winning one-point thrillers, as they held off Counties Brothers 6-5, after the visitors scored the only try, which came in the second half.
Results, July 6.
Tasman Tanning Division 1, Week 11.
Grand Hotel Challenge Shield – Waverley Harvesting Border 46 (Vereniki Tikoisolomone 2, Jon Smyth, Craig Clare, Jason Myers, Angus Middleton, Lindsay Horrocks, Neihana Parkes tries; Nick Harding 3 con) bt Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist 0. HT: 17-0.
McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu 34 (Tautahi Rawiri 2, Troy Brown 2, Mitchell Millar, Kahl Elers-Green tries; Millar 2 con) bt Harvey Round Motors Ratana 0. HT: 20-0 (match ended early).
Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau 17 (Raymond Epati try; Shandon Scott 4 pen) bt Byford's Readimix Taihape 16 (Regan Collier try; Dane Whale 3 pen, con). HT: 6-5 Taihape.
Division 2, Week 4.
At Spriggens Park: Black Bull Liquor Pirates bt Marist Celtic 36-19. HT: 26-5.
At Ngamatapouri: Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri bt Counties 87-12. HT: 48-0.
At Memorial Park: Bennett's Taihape bt Utiku OB 10-6. HT: 6-5 Utiku OB.
Division 3, Week 4.
At Racecourse: Border bt Marist Buffalo's 29-27. HT: 22-15 Buffalo's.
At Kaierau Country Club: Kaierau bt Counties Brothers 6-5. HT: 6-0.
At Marton Park: Speirs Food Marton bt Kelso Hunterville 19-19. HT: 14-5 Hunterville.