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The competitive nature of Week 7 of Tasman Tanning Premier was seen across the board as an outstanding second-half comeback by McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu fell just short in the derby game with Byford's Readimix Taihape on Saturday.
Taihape are now virtual certainties to have locked in a home semifinal, after Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau stumbled against Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist, but that was not looking guaranteed as Ruapehu made a strong fightback at Rochfort Park.
The visitors led 25-8 at the break, having scored a try in the first seven minutes while Dane Whale added a penalty for 8-0, which became 8-3 after Tuhirangi Akapita's reply.
Taihape then got three more tries out wide, with Ruapehu prop Gabriel Hakaraia getting one amongst them for a 25-8 scoreline at the break.
Midfielder Tim Goodwin got a double, while Steelform Whanganui incumbent Tyler Rogers-Holden and winger Ryan Karatau also dotted down.
But come the second half and the home side came charging home – as flankers Jamie Hughes and Jack Kinder, the former an MVP winner and the latter in contention this season, each scored converted tries to reduce the gap to three points.
However, unlike Marist, they just could not get one more score over the line for their first win in the Northern Subunion derby since 2019.
Up in the Waitotara Valley, the Waverley Harvesting Border express just kept on rolling after a 51-10 win in the South Taranaki derby with Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri.
Looking to return to representative rugby this season after his nuptials took precedence in 2020, flanker Angus Middleton scored a hat-trick of tries, while winger Vereniki Tikoisolomone added yet another double to his tally – taking him to a whopping 15 tries in seven matches.
Fullback Nick Harding also added a double plus three conversions, while No 8 Semi Vodosese and winger Tom Symes also dotted down.
In the first of three straight away games, it was Border's 10th successful defence of the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield.
In senior rugby, the table is now set for the biggest game of the regular season as both undefeated Kelso Hunterville and the team unbeaten on the field, Harvey Round Motors Ratana, picked up victories ahead of their upcoming clash.
Hunterville were given a tough road game by Ruapehu, who had the services of 50-plus game Whanganui rep Fraser Hammond, but still pulled away with a 35-19 win, while Ratana were big winners in the Rangitikei derby, accounting for Speirs Food Marton 64-14 at the Pa.
The Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield has yet another new owner as Utiku Old Boys pulled the upset in their derby game with Bennett's Taihape, winning 19-15 to take the prize and deal the playoff hopes of their neighbours a big blow.
In the race for the top 4, Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau and Ali Arc Logistics-DNA Kennels Marist Celtic both solidified their spots, the latter hammering Border 53-6 at the Country Club, while the latter won the Spriggens Park derby over Black Bull Liquor Pirates, 40-24.
The curtain-raiser at Spriggens Park saw McCrae Scanning Counties lifted off the bottom of the table after hanging on for a 15-8 win over Marist Buffalos.
Results, June 12
Tasman Tanning Premier, Week 7
Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist 22 (Rangi Kui, Rory Gudsell, Brad O'Leray tries; Kui pen, 2 con) bt Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau 21 (Josefa Rokotakaia, Joe Edwards tries; Ethan Robinson 3 pen, con). HT: 15-12.
Byford's Readimix Taihape 25 (Tim Goodwin 2, Tyler Rogers-Holden, Ryan Karatau tries; Dane Whale pen, con) bt McCarthy Transport Ruapehu 22 (Gabriel Hakaraia, Jamie Hughes, Jack Kinder tries; Tuhirangi Akapita pen, 2 con). HT: 25-8.
Grand Hotel Challenge Shield –Waverley Harvesting Border 51 (Angus Middleton 3, Vereniki Tikoisolomone 2, Nick Harding 2, Semi Vodosese, Tom Symes tries; Harding 3 con) bt Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri 10 (scorers not provided). HT: 35-10.
Senior Championship, Week 8
At Spriggens Park: Ali Arc Logistics-DNA Kennels Marist Celtic bt Black Bull Liquor Pirates 40-24. HT: 21-14.
At Spriggens Park: McCrae Scanning Counties bt Marist Buffalo's 15-8. HT: 5-0.
At Kaierau Country Club: Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau bt Border 53-6. HT: 24-6.
At Ratana Pa: Harvey Round Motors Ratana bt Speirs Food Marton 64-14. HT: 45-0.
At Memorial Park,Taihape (Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield): Utiku OB bt Bennett's Taihape 19-15. HT: 10-7.
At Rochfort Park: Kelso Hunterville bt Ruapehu 35-19.
Around the grounds
St Johns Whanganui Metro kept their lead on top of the MRU Colts table after hammering Dannevirke Sports Club 84-0 down at Dannevirke Rugby Park on Saturday. Defending champions, the Feilding Yellows, righted their first round draw to Freyberg Old Boys by winning the rematch, 53-24.
Whanganui High School 1st XV worked hard for a 24-17 away win over Palmerston North Boys' High 3rd XV on Saturday. In the same Premier 2 grade, City College picked up a big 45-18 home victory over Dannevirke High 1st XV. In Premier 3a, the Whanganui Collegiate 2nd XV lost 29-14 at home to Feilding High Colts.
The Cullinane College 1st XV ran into the Manukura juggernaut in the Secondary Schools Girls' Premier competition on Wednesday, with Manukura picking up an 81-10 win. Whanganui High School were scheduled to play Tu Toa-Awatapu.