Shock defeat for Border on home turf
Loss at Dallison Park ends 16 home-game winning streak
John B. Phillips
It is little wonder there were quite a few glum faces among the Waverley faithful at Dallison Park last Friday night after their champion Border rugby side were upset 14-0 by South Taranaki neighbours Ngamatapouri. It was the only time since Border returned from the Taranaki union in 2011 that the premiers failed to score a point at the park, the first scoreless occasion in 149 outings since losing 34-0 away to 2011 champions Ratana, and the defeat ended a current 16 home-game winning streak. There was the consolation that Border were minus seven key players including 2021 reps Craig Clare, Lindsay Horrocks and Semi Vodesese but the defeat was still difficult to swallow. It is very seldom, if ever, that both Whanganui playing-through premier championship finalists have suffered home defeats on the same weekend early the following season. But it happened in the third qualifying round of the Tasman Tanningsponsored competition when both Waverley Harvesting Border and Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau crashed to unexpected losses. Border, bidding for a hat-trick of union-wide titles, conceded two tries in the final quarter against a livelier Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri in an annual game on the eve of the duck shooting season’s opening. On Saturday Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist took Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau apart 41-10 at the Devon Road Country Club. Although Ngamat had narrowly shaded Border at the same ground in a pre-season practice outing, the championship win was a historic first for the Waitotara Valle-based club. Neighbouring Border had won all nine previous fixtures since the “beekeepers” joined the premier grade ranks in 2017, five of them on Dallison Park, including 54-14 under lights last year. This time the visitors repeated their 2021 effort of two converted tries but the depleted hosts were held scoreless — a far cry from a record 90-0 romp two winters ago. Top marks to Ngamat, however, a squad that have been greatly boosted by the arrival of a few real quality players from other clubs — including NZ Heartland rep midfield back Josaia Bogileka, who has been in good tryscoring form. Border’s after-match gloom was repeated at the Kaierau clubhouse the following day after Marist convincingly took the hosts apart 41-10, the highest margin by the Irish club since a 48-17 victory in 2017. Kaierau may have been in the hunt when only trailing 10-11 at halftime, but the second spell was mainly oneway traffic with the young Marist side playing some of their best rugby of the season to nab a further four tries. Young first five Rangi Kui played a key role, turning Kaierau mistakes into 21 points (a try, four penalties and two conversions). It was, however, a fine all-round team effort from Marist who took a major forward step towards a semifinal berth later in the season. Marton recover again Second-spell comebacks have enabled H Walters Marton to recover from halftime deficits and retain the senior grade Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield for the past two weekends. Marton turned a 12-20 deficit at Hunterville into a 31-27 shield defence victory a fortnight ago and last Saturday the home crowd was delighted at the quite remarkable second-half comeback from 8-24 down to dispose of McCarthy Transport Ruapehu 27-24. Marton lead the senior Country Group points table by 5 points and now travel away to tackle secondplaced Harvey Round Motors Ratana this coming weekend. Ratana, the 2020 champions and runners-up to Hunterville last year, come off two close recent home encounters — 19-15 v Bennett’s Taihape and 29-24 v Hunterville a week ago. Taihape, who comfortably beat arch-rivals Utiku OB 34-12 last weekend, host Ruapehu on Saturday with Utiku home to Hunterville. Latest Country Group points — Marton 14, Ratana 9, Hunterville and Ruapehu 8, Taihape 6, Utiku OB 5. After battling out a 24-all draw in the “final” of the senior pre-season knockout series at the Devon Road Country Club, Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau and Black Bull Liquor Pirates, the leading two teams in the senior Town Group, meet on Spriggens Park this Saturday. Kaierau (102 pts for and 40 against) head the points table on 14, four ahead of Pirates (125-61) who lost 41-19 to Ali Arc Logistics-DNA Kennels Marist Celtic on opening day. Last Saturday Kaierau beat a “boosted” Marist Buffalos 43-29, Pirates beat McCrea Scanning Counties 33-20 at McNab Domain and Celtic beat Border 61-0 in Waverley. The two Marist teams meet this weekend and Counties host Border. Current points — Kaierau 14, Pirates and Celtic 10, Counties and Border 5, Buffalos 1. Eyes on Taihape There is bound to be a huge crowd at Memorial Park on Saturday for the all-important Taihape v Border premier fixture. Not only is the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield at stake but the match result will also play a key role in who win the Paul Mitchell Memorial Cup (and Grand Hotel $500 voucher) awarded to the winners of the first round of the championship. Border won the honours last year, going through the first round unbeaten with five victories, and also in 2017 despite a 22-30 away loss to Marist. Taihape won the Mitchell Cup in 2016 with seven straight victories including 36-30 at home over Border in the deciding match. Going into this weekend Border have 10 points from 3 games, Taihape 9 from 2, Ngamatapouri 5 from 2, Marist 5 from 3 and Kaierau 0 from 3. Kaierau host Ngamat on Saturday, Marist have the bye, and in the final Mitchell Cup round on May 21 Ngamat host Marist, Taihape are home to Kaierau and Border sit out the bye. Border may lead Taihape 17 wins to six since 2011 but five of Taihape’s successes have been on home soil including 28-17 in lifting the Challenge Shield last season. Taihape’s other main scalping of Border was 23-16 in extra time in the 2019 championship final at Cooks Gardens. Both teams have had hard tussles against Ngamat this year, Taihape scrambling home 25-19 up the Valley a fortnight ago and Border losing 14-0 at home last weekend. Border will need to have most of their seven missing players from last Friday night available to have a realistic chance of winning this weekend. Injuries, out-of-thedistrict duck shooters and a suspension were reasons for the defections last weekend. Taihape have the strongest all-round forward unit in the competition, boosted by the transfer of four experienced Ruapehu players. The clash of representative goalkickers Dane Whale and Craig Clare could have a major bearing on the game. Whale has scored 588 club points for Taihape since 2012 and 169 rep points and Clare 451 club points since 2016 and 337 rep points. It will be Taihape’s first home fixture of the season to be followed by three more in a row — Kaierau, Marist and Ngamatapouri. Kaierau face the daunting task of trying to contain the most dangerous backline in the union when Ngamatapouri visit the club on Saturday. Ngamat, who train at Devon Rd, have already beaten the Kaiwhakas in a pre-season match this season and the team’s free-flowing style of rugby will again be hard to contain. Kaierau have won eight of 10 matches against the visitors since 2017 with the two losses 17-12 at home last season and 29-20 away in 2017. Judging on last weekend’s results it will require a mighty improved effort for Kaierau to win on Saturday.