Dredging deep into the memory banks, one can find a rough equivalent to the possibility of Border turning a 55-7 first-round defeat at the hands of Ruapehu into a Wanganui grand final victory this coming Saturday.

Way back in 1973 in Palmerston North, a brilliant Varsity side with a full rep backline and All Black insides in Bob Burgess and Ian Stevens beat Kia Toa 96-0 in the first round. A few months later, the two teams drew in the Manawatu final.

The Kia Toa coach, in his first senior season, was one Graham Hamer, who later took Manawatu to their only Ranfurly Shield, so he quickly showed his ability.

So a turnaround of extravagant proportions can take place - and clearly on the evidence of Saturday's 23-6 victory over Hydraulink Pirates, Waverly Harvesting Border are a completely different proposition for Ruapehu to consider.


Last time they met, Border were without playmaker Mark Davis, lock Jon Smyth and Fijian No8 Nemani Nagusa amongst others - and filling-in at first five-eighths was coach Peter Richardson.

"We won't read much into that one, it's a completely different team now," Richardson said. "Mark Davis wasn't there - and the old fella you're talking to was, so we're a different team now.

"The forwards have been making steps each week. it starts from the front and they led the way today. It was awesome."

And indeed the Border forwards were outstanding as a pack, with No8 Nagusa able to be a confounded nuisance to Pirates simply because he had such a good base to work from.

Clearly the recent arrival of Smyth has been of great benefit as well, captain Cole Baldwin is leading strongly, and the likes of openside Ian Honeyfield and props Lance Devane and Chris Craven are amongst the unsung heroes that allowed halfback Fraser Middleton and Davis to orchestrate the win.

Devane started playing for Border in 1997, had a few seasons with Utiku and then returned - and now has 101 matches for Border. And no, he's never won a senior rugby title.

Border had another young hero too in fullback Nick Harding, who overcame a nervous start to play superbly for a player of his experience.

Pirates, probably a slight favourite at the start, could not get any real forward advantage, and Middleton/Honeyfield/Nagusa pressured Denning Tyrell and did not give him room to become the calm conductor of the Pirates orchestra.

Johnny Mow worked himself to a standstill on the wing, looking for work on attack and defence but Pirates could not produce any magic in midfield and kicked too much ball away.

Opensider Matt Thompson and hooker Junior Tume were the best of the forwards - but for Pirates it was all about fragmented effort and not enough smarts against a side that really wanted the win.

The last word for Richardson: "It was another step-up from last week (55-7 over Marist). People might think it wasn't as polished, but this was semifinal football."

The only blot on the win was a head injury suffered by Border wing Dion Hyland in the final minute. He was taken to Whanganui Hospital and had 10 staples inserted.

Nonetheless, he hopes to have them removed on Friday and play in the final.

Wanganui rugby results from the weekend

Tasman Tanning championship semifinals

Premier Championship -

At Spriggens Park - Waverley Harvesting Border 23 (Nemani Nagusa, Cole Baldwin tries, Mark Davis 3 pen, 2 con), Hydraulink Pirates 6 (Tafa Tauialoto 2 pen). HT: 3-3.

At Rochfort Park, Ohakune - McCarthy's Ruapehu 14 (Corey Carmichael, Kim McNaught tries, George Williams 2 con), Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau 5 (Jordan Farrington try).

Premier Consolation -

Harvey Round Motors Ratana beat Utiku OB by default, Taihape beat Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist by default.

Senior Championship -

At Spriggens Park - Pirates 23, Counties 8. HT: 8-8.

At Hunterville - Power Farming (PN) Hunterville 51, St. John's Tech 0. HT: 29-0

Senior Consolation -

At Taihape - Taihape 11, Marist 8.

Utiku OB beat Celtic by default.

Senior Plate -

At Racecourse - Border 58, Kaierau 12. HT: 21-3.

Ruapehu a bye.

Draw for Finals Day (July 21) -

Premier - Championship: Border v Ruapehu, Spriggens Park, 2.45. Consolation: Ratana v Taihape, Spriggens Park, 12 noon.

Senior - Championship: Hunterville v Pirates, Spriggens Park, 1.30. Consolation: Taihape v Utiku OB, Taihape, tba. Plate: Ruapehu v Border, Racecourse 1, 12 noon.