The Taranaki premier club rugby competition continues to be largely unpredictable.
With just about every team capable of beating each other, the competition table is clogged with just five points separating second placed Southern and Spotswood United in sixth.
The exception, at the moment, is defending champions New Plymouth Old Boys who made it four wins from as many matches on Saturday.
In a rematch of last year’s grand final, Old Boys beat Inglewood 40-21 at the TET Stadium, although they had to work a lot harder than many people might have predicted.
Without a win in 2016 and missing a lot of frontline players, Inglewood were not meant to push Old Boys too closely.
That script looked like it was off the mark early as Inglewood enjoyed plenty of territory and possession.
Inglewood co-coach Cole Brown said before the match they would attempt to play a high tempo game and they were true to his work early on as they repeatedly turned down easy shots at goal in favour of trying to score tries.
It worked, eventually, after Old Boys second five-eighth Jayden Ford was yellow carded Cody Hall scored a try before the visitors hit back with the first of their long range efforts.
Inglewood hit straight back, though, before the score was levelled.
Some some midfield defence cost Inglewood late in the half and they went to the break trailing 26-14. Things looked grim when Old Boys scored straight after the break but instead of lying down Inglewood came back and camped themselves in the their opposition’s 22 for long periods.
Behind 33-14 Inglewood finally did score, although it appeared a dubious five pointer, before Old Boys rounded off the match with with a try to Ford.
While it was far from perfect from Old Boys, captain Caleb Mawson was just happy to have grabbed maximum points.
“It’s always a bit of a dogfight when we come here, they make the ruck a bit of a mess and make the game hard for us but at the end of the day we’ll just take the win,” he said.
The breakdown did become an area of concern for Old Boys, especially early when they were heavily penalised.
However, while that area continued to be a focal point for much of the game, the ability of Old Boys to break out and construct some quality long range tries was the main difference between the sides.
Mawson said despite them starting the first month of the competition unbeaten, there were still a lot of areas in their game that need improving.
“We have to work harder to secure our own ruck ball. We just have to be a bit smarter and get into our structures earlier.”
Elsewhere, Spotswood United caused a minor upset when they beat Coastal 28-20 at Rahotu.
The match was close for long periods before Spotswood United scored late to make the game safe.
It was a much improved showing from Spotswood United after they had struggled in some of the early games, especially at set piece.
There were several notable performances from Spotswood United, including prop Jared Proffit, who was effective with his ball carrying. Fullback Nick Standen also had a strong game, wing David Philander scored a brace of tries while hooker Sione Sifa had his best game of the season.
Coastal coach Aaron Fisher said they simply failed to front, were flat from the outset and were outplayed at the breakdown and at set piece.
While they lost five regular frontline players to injury, he was not using it as an excuse. Locks Dylan Schuler and Andrew Weaver toiled away for Coastal, while fullback Troy Stevenson made a god adjustment to playing in the midfield.
Southern moved up to second on the table after a 16-5 win over Clifton in Hawera.
A strong wind made running rugby difficult with Southern leading 11-5 until the last few minutes when they too scored a late try to make the game safe.
Southern coach Jason Skipper said he did not think they had enough points after only scoring 11 in the first half after playing with the wind but the match was a real arm wrestle and they managed to stay on top.
Fullback Trinity Spooner-Neera continued his good form with a brace of tries but Spooner said they failed to give him enough opportunities. Skipper was also pleased with the way first five-eighth Daniel Brooks controlled the game.
Clifton coach Brad Cooper was disappointed in their discipline, particularly at the breakdown where they conceded a lot of penalties in what he said was a tough game.
Loose forwards Cole Blyde and Mark Shaw had strong games for Clifton, while halfback Cody Whitaker was the pick of their backs.
Tukapa made it back-to-back wins when they beat Stratford 31-12 at Victoria Park.
A three try burst in a 10-minute period proved the difference for Tukapa who struggled in the second half to replicate what they achieved in the first 40 minutes.
Tukapa loose forwards Adrian Wyrill, Shay Moon and Mitchell Crosswell performed really well while the return of first five-eighth Jack Cameron also helped.
Stratford were left to rue that 10-minute period and performed well in the second half without being able to turn their pressure into enough points.
Donald Maka again played well at hooker and was equally effective when he switched to No 8 in the last 20 minutes while Jordan Masters had a good game at fullback.
At a glance
Tukapa 31 Stratford 12
NPOB 40 Inglewood 21
Spotswood United 28 Coastal 20
Southern 16 Clifton 5