It may have been the wettest day of the season but last Saturday there were certainly notable performances in the Tasman Tanning Whanganui club rugby competitions.
The two challenge shields changed hands, both defending champions suffered defeats and there is now a new leader in the champion club competition.
Taihape took over the lead in the Weekes Cup champion club series with both premier and senior teams winning on Saturday and the club now sitting on 60 points, six clear of 2020 winners Kaierau who suffered defeats in both grades.
Kaierau started the weekend with a 53-50 advantage.
Taihape ended defending champion Border's 14-match unbeaten premier sequence with the 28-17 victory on Memorial Park also lifting the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield.
The teams, who have beaten each other this season, are level pegging at the top of the points table with two qualifying rounds remaining. If they end up with the same points it will revert back to the most tries scored in games between the two teams and at present Border is ahead eight tries to seven.
City sides Marist (this weekend) and Kaierau (July 3) host the last two shield challenges.
Marton lifted the Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield in the senior grade with an unexpected 29-19 victory over Utiku OB in Taihape in the curtain-raiser to the premier trophy fixture.
Marist Celtic (Saturday) and Counties play at Marton Park in the final two qualifying rounds.
Premier semis battle
The battle for the fourth qualifying slot in the premier championship semifinals is an interesting match-up in the ninth and penultimate qualifying round on Saturday.
McCarthy Transport Ruapehu, shooting for a 14th successive semifinal berth, has a home engagement with Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri with the match result playing a major bearing on a possible Top Four ranking for the victors.
Ruapehu may hold a 5-2 winning advantage in the seven games between the two clubs since Ngamat joined the premier ranks in 2017 but the "Mountain Men" have suffered losses in both the past two seasons – 33-17 when the visitors last played on Rochfort Park in 2020 and 26-21 on a trip up the Waitotara Valley last month after leading 21-5 at halftime.
In seven games between the two clubs Ruapehu has managed 350 points and conceded 140, an average score of 50-20, mainly thanks to a huge 95-5 away victory in 2018 when Troy Brown scored four of 15 tries, Shaquelle Waara three and four others two each with Mitchell Millar landing 10 conversions.
Winger Joeli Rauca (ex-Hawke's Bay) was the star of the most recent Ngamat success with a hat-trick of tries.
At present Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist (14 pts) leads Ruapehu (10) and Ngamat (9) in the chase for the semis but Marist faces series leaders Byford's Readi-Mix Taihape this weekend before hosting Ngamat in the final qualifying round.
This year Ruapehu has scored only one win - 29-22 at home against Marist – but has managed a consolation bonus point in six of eight games including last weekend's 13-17 loss to Marist on a wet Spriggens Park.
Ngamatapouri held off Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau 17-12 up the Waitotara Valley last Saturday but has only a single bonus point, scoring four tries in the 26-21 home win against the Mountain Men.
The leading two premier teams – Waverley Harvesting Border and Taihape – are both engaged in Whanganui this weekend.
Defending champions Border take on third-positioned Kaierau at the Devon Road Country Club and Tahape meet Marist on Spriggens Park.
First round results indicate success for both visiting squads.
Border won 37-10 over the Kaiwakas at Dallison Park in round one, scoring five tries to two, and it will take a mini miracle to see the maroon and golds turning that result around even given a home advantage.
Kaierau has only won once at Devon Road against Border since the Waverley club returned from Taranaki 10 years ago – 19-12 last season in a game that won the first round title (Paul Mitchell Cup and Grand Bar and Eatery $500 voucher) for the team on the count-back ahead of Border who has won that first round trophy and voucher this year.
Border is well ahead of Kaierau since 2012, winning 16 games to four, scoring 641 points and conceding 361 (average winning score of 32-18) with a highest victory of 57-0 at Devon Road in 2015, a season when Jack Lupton scored 113 points and mid fielder Poasa Waqanibau 19 tries.
After being hammered 81-14 at Memorial Park last month, the highest premier grade score this year, Marist will be praying for a much closer game at home against Taihape this time around.
Taihape ran in 13 tries including two each to Ben Whale, Dylan Gallien and Beau Walker, in the one-sided first round encounter with Dane Whale also contributing 10 points (five conversions).
It was the third highest defeat for Marist in a quarter of a century, coming in behind 100-8 at home against Kaierau in 2005 and 83-7 v Ruapehu at Ohakune in 2013.
For Taihape it was a third largest win since 1996 with the two heavier victories also on Memorial Park – 99-0 in 2000 and 86-0 a year later, both against Wanganui HSOB.
Marist has improved leaps and bounds since last month but will again find a well-balanced Taihape squad hard to contain in the northern team's first premier visit to the city this year.
And, with a first defence of the newly won Grand Hotel Challenge Shield at stake, Taihape will start firm favourites.
Premier stats –
Championship points – Border (202 pts differential) and Taihape (149) 35, Kaierau 22, Marist 14, Ruapehu 10, Ngamatapouri 9.
Individual points – 75 Vereniki Tikoisolomone (Border), 73 Dane Whale (Taihape), 52 Ethan Robinson (Kaierau), 46 Nick Harding (Border), 40 Angus Middleton (Border), 35 Ben Whale (Taihape), 25 Semi Vodosese (Border), Tyler Rogers-Holden (Taihape), Joeli Rauca (Ngamatapouri), 21 Craig Clare (Border), 20 Tuhirangi Akapita (Ruapehu), Ross McDonald (Border), Karl Pascoe (Kaierau), Tiari Mumby (Taihape).
Individual tries – 15 Tikoisolomone, 8 Middleton, 7 Ben Whale, 5 Vodosese, Rogers-Holden, Rauca, 4 McDonald, Pascoe, Mumby.
Team tries – 48 Border (17 against), 42 Taihape (19), 24 Kaierau 20),
21 Ruapehu (36), 20 Marist (39), 15 Ngamatapouri (39).
The Marist club has a good chance of lifting the senior grade Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield on Saturday when Ali Arc Logistics-DNA Kennels Celtic challenges new holders Speirs Food Marton at Marton Park.
Celtic is third on the points table and Marton, who upset Utiku OB 29-19 away last weekend to lift the trophy, is 10th with only two victories this winter compared with Celtic's seven.
If Celtic manages to lift the shield it faces a tough home defence against top of the table Kelso Hunterville in the last trophy game of the year.
A Marton win will give McCrea Scanning Counties an away challenge.
Utiku, now seventh, tackle fourth-placed Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau at the Devon Road Country Club.
Top of the table Hunterville host Buffalos this weekend and there are also home fixtures for Ruapehu (v Border), Counties (v Ratana) and Taihape (v Pirates)
Current senior points – Hunterville 43, Ratana 35, Celtic (plus 117 points differential) and Kaierau (103) 32, Taihape (14) and Pirates (minus 2) 25, Utiku 20, Ruapehu 16, Counties 13, Marton 12, Buffalos 11 and Border 5.