Marist defeated Blaketown 21-10 at McLean Park on Saturday, to retain the highly prized Matthew Hodgson Memorial Cup, in at times atrocious weather.
The Marist side set the tone for the match early, playing a well worked out game plan of ten man rugby into the driving wind and intermittent rain in the first 40 minutes, incredibly being only down at the break 3-0, courtesy of a fourth minute penalty goal to Blaketown’s centre Adam Richardson.
Marist number eight and captain Oliver Varley spurned multiple kickable penalties throughout the first 40 minutes to keep the pressure on the Blaketown pack, and at one stage set scrum after scrum on the home teams goal line during a continuous 15 minute period urging his pack to cross the line.
The men in black however had other ideas, and despite the Blaketown team, being minus flanker Kevin Curtis who was spending time in the sin bin, courageously held the visitors out time after time, thwarting the Green’s constant surges.
Blaketown’s number eight Rob Thomson was a standout during this period with his hard driving tackling forcing the Marist attackers back time and time again, while his half back Liam Jackson and first five Brogan Jackson also put in a power of work, halting the Marist sides constant pick and go’s.
The second half again was highlighted by a dominant Marist forward display, making it difficult for Blaketown to get any go forward at scrum time as the Marist pack secured a number of tight heads, but if the visitors though the match was all but won with the conditions now in their favour they were wrong, as the home side pushed them all the way to the final whistle.
Marist got their scoring underway in the 50th minute with a well worked try in the corner to winger Gilbert Fahey, who dived over in the tackle of number eight Robert Thomson, who tracked well in defence but couldn’t quiet prevent the flying winger from diving over the line.
The try came after the ball went through the backline following an attacking scrum 30 meters out, with centre Peipi putting on the last pass before Fahey scored. Marist second five Corey Deans then calmly slotted the sideline conversion despite the ferocious wind.
Fahey was again to the fore with Marist’s second try in the 57th minute, this time being the creator as he dashed down the right wing before putting in a brilliant cross field kick which sat up perfectly for the supporting Marist number seven Hector Bright to latch on to and score under the posts, for Deans to again convert.
With Marist now up 14-3 and the driving wind and rain still lashing the McLean Park field in their favour, Marist should have put the game to bed, but Blaketown kept battling on, with lock Brad Houston proving an absolute menace with the ball in hand, threatening time and time again with his charges that Marist defence battled hard to stop, while Blaketown’s second half substitute Nik Davy was also a constant threat with his sniping runs and general organisational skills proving key for the home side in trying to force their way back into the match.
Marist’s centre Hamana Peipi was sin binned in the 71st minute for foul play giving the home side a one man advantage, and from then on the comeback was well and truly on. Blaketown’s lock Baily Stewart then gave local supporters and his side further hope when he crashed over the line in the 77th minute from a fine charging run, and with Richardson’s successful conversion, the score was now 14-10 to Marist with just minutes to play.
Marist had the final say in the final minute however, when standout openside flanker Hector Bright toed the ball forward several times over a 30 meter distance, after the ball had popped out from a ruck, and showed remarkable skill to dive on the ball just short of the dead ball line.
Deans again converted to give the victory to Marist by 21-10.
Marist coach Josh Costello was thrilled with how dominant his side was at set piece and how his side controlled it’s aggression and stuck to the game plan. “The boys all put in a good shift, and players that really stood out for us were flanker Hector Bright, while first five Maleli Mudu controlled the game well, and credit also goes the front rowers Greg Crampton, Liam Wiggins and Dai Harries” Costello said.
Blaketown co-coach Tony Stanton while disappointed with the result, said there were some good signs from his team, and they’ll keep working hard at trainings to continue to make improvements. “Prop Ruben Ellen had a fine game for us in the tight, while centre Adam Richardson played very well in trying conditions, and they should be pleased with their games, while number eight Rob Thomson again showed his class at the back of the scrum”, Stanton said.