Marist St. Pat's emerged as the comprehensive winners of the fifth round of the Jubilee Cup that was played in atrocious conditions throughout Wellington, Porirua and the Hutt Valley on Saturday.
MSP beat Petone 55-5 in a splash at Evans Bay Park to secure outright second on the points table behind Oriental-Rongotai who went down 3-8 to a resurgent Northern United in at times torrential rain at Porirua Park.
The other two Jubilee Cup matches saw narrow wins to the home sides. At the Hutt Recreation Ground, the home team edged out Wainuiomata just 3-0, while at Lyndhurst Park Tawa defeated Upper Hutt 16-3.
In the Hardham Cup, Rimutaka held on to beat Johnsonville 16-15 at Helston Park to gain the upper hand in their promotion-relegation battle for the 2013 Swindale Shield. Poneke scraped past MSP B 18-17 at Evans Bay Park, the Wests Roosters held off Norths B 20-5 at Porirua Park and new outright leaders Old Boys University overran Wainuiomata B 46-0 at Nairnville Park.
MSP's bonus point win over Petone and Norths' narrow win over Ories brings the leading Jubilee Cup contenders closer together as the race to the semi-finals heats up over the final two weeks of regular season play. Ories (20 points) head a crowded field, with MSP (19), Norths (15) and Tawa and Wainuiomata (both 15) all still realistically vying for top four places.
Mathematically, a sixth team, Hutt Old Boys Marist (6), are still alive for semi-finals places on 4 August but will need consecutive bonus point victories and for both Tawa and Wainuiomata to stumble badly in their last two games.
MSP defied the conditions at Evans Bay Park to run in seven tries against the hapless Petone who had beaten them when they last met five weeks ago.
Seven individual players scored tries for MSP, while first five-eighth Fa'atonu Fili put on a masterclass of goalkicking by banging over all seven conversions and two penalties from all angles.
MSP broke open a close start to the match when openside flanker Sio Tuia ran through to score the game's first try under the bar. No. 8 Tevita Ah Wong burst away from the back of a lineout to score their second try and MSP led 20-0 at halftime.
Five more tries were run in the second 40 minutes, halfback Peter Scisasia taking a quick tap and crossing for their bonus point midway through the half. Petone's only joy was a try to flanker Murray Douglas after a break by livewire wing Nick Grigg.
Tawa's win over a gallant but again unlucky Upper Hutt was again built around their imposing forwards who had too much firepower for the visiting side over the course of 80 minutes.
Playing into the wind, Tawa were restricted to 3-3 at halftime but fullback Randall Bishop added his second and third penalties of the match and standout prop Taniela Koroi scored the try that put the game and this year's Jubilee Cup out of reach of Upper Hutt.
Hutt Valley rivals the HOBM Eagles and Wainuiomata fought out the closest match of the season of the season so far.
In a fierce battle that appeared to be heading for a 0-0 draw, HOBM first five-eighth Glen Walters stepped up and kicked the only scoring play of the game and the winning penalty with about 15 minutes to play.
At Porirua Park, the influence of Hurricanes centre Alapati Leiua was significant in two scoring plays in the first half that won ultimately won the match for Norths. The first was his piercing run through the Ories midfield to score the only try of the game in the 21st minute and the second was his educated kick into the Porirua Park scoreboard corner that set up a penalty in the 30th minute that gave Norths their match winning 8-3 lead. Both of these plays came directly from Norths pressure on the Ories lineout.
In the lead-up to the try halfback Tomasi Palu made a dart down the shortside from a scrum in midfield and linked up with NZ U20 prop Eric Sione who was eventually bundled into touch. Norths snaffled the defensive Ories lineout, the Norths backs immediately swung into attack mode and Leiua sliced through to score.
Protecting an 8-3 lead at halftime and turning into the wind and the elements, Ories threw everything at Norths, including replacement hooker Motu Matu'u. But, after missing an opportunity through an early period of ascendancy, they couldn't break through over the rest of the match. In wet and increasingly gloomy conditions, Norths matched Ories with their intensity and the visitors kept making impatient mistakes and handling errors.
It was Norths who went the closest to scoring more tries, replacement AJ Va'alepu off a broken field run near the coffee cart and lock Telea Seumanutafa off a Palu chip kick both going close in the opposite corner.
With 10 minutes remaining, AJ Va'alepu shanked a penalty that would have put the game out of reach for Ories, but it didn't matter as Norths held on to lower Ories colours for the first time in four matches between these sides.
In the Hardham Cup, unbeaten Poneke were given a fright by MSP B in the early game at Evans Bay Park, having to come from behind to win their fifth consecutive Hardham Cup victory 18-17.
MSP had taken a 17-8 lead when halfback Nick Wanden dashed through to score off a 5-metre scrum, before Poneke closed the deficit to 15-17 through a converted try to their New Zealand U20 lock Joe Latta. After converting Latta's try, veteran first five-eighth Sam Rasch then kicked the winning points for Poneke with a penalty.
Poneke's win without a bonus point has put OBU out in front in the Hardham Cup standings with a perfect 25 points from five matches. OBU scored eight tries against Wainuiomata's B side that beat Rimutaka the previous week. The students raced to a 12-0 lead early on the back of tries to flanker Tom Everton and fullback Beau Brown. They then scored twice more before halftime to take a 24-0 lead into the turnaround.
Returning right wing Joe Hill, who played for Otago in last year's ITM Cup, finished up with two tries, as did No. 8 Pagopago Taeaomua Hainey who also scored a brace last week.
The rain started falling just in time for the start of the Wests - Norths B clash at Porirua Park, and it never let up throughout the contest that subsequently never reached any spectacular heights.
The Roosters won three tries to one, with tries to left wing Mika Viane off an attacking scrum inside the 22 in the 15th minute, to No. 8 Rolagi Lepupa in the 33rd minute after a sustained build-up that featured recent Highlander Scott Fuglistaller and to fullback Steve Johnson in the 45th minute. With the weather at their backs in the second half, Norths replied with their only try and the last scoring play of the match in the 55th minute as heavy rain dictated play over the final quarter.
At Helston Park, visiting Rimutaka first five-eighth Ray MacDonald kicked three penalties in the first half to give his side a 9-3 lead over Johnsonville at halftime.
Playing into the wind, Rimutaka prop Jamie Pita scored a decisive try off an attacking lineout and lineout drive and Macdonald converted to put Rimutaka ahead 16-3.
Johnsonville came back and scored two tries to No. 8 Mykel Herewini to pick up a bonus point in defeat, which could yet prove pivotal as these two sides seem destined to be fighting out the promotion-relegation battle over the next two weeks.
They still lead by one point to second placed Wellington, but Petone lost their first match of the Senior 1 Ed Chaney Cup going down 11-12 to Poneke.
In other Senior 1 results, Wellington beat OBU 12-0, HOBM pipped Avalon 5-0, Tawa beat Upper Hutt 28-17 and Paremata-Plimmerton defeated Ories 39-7.These results put half the 10-team field - Petone, Wellington, Poneke, Avalon and HOBM - within six competition points of each other with four rounds to play until the semi-finals.
HOBM's Senior 2 HD Morgan Memorial side is the only unbeaten team after five rounds in the top three grades after their 30-7 victory over Avalon. OBU are second after beating Stokes Valley 20-0, ahead of MSP who defeated fourth placed Petone 29-0 with Poneke in fifth after their 33-20 win over Ories. Wests remain at the foot of the Senior 2 table after losing to Norths 25-20.
In the Premier Women's Victoria Tavern eighth round Norths forfeited their match to Eketahuna but remain two points out in front in the standings to second placed Wainuiomata who were held to a 10-10 draw by Old Boys University. In the other match Ories overcame Stokes Valley 18-15.