A dazzling try by right winger Brenton Connell set it up and the steady boot of Jacob Beleski sealed it but Stoke will put its Car Company division one semi-final win down to plenty of heart.
Heart alone might not be enough for this weekend’s grand final though.
Accessman Stoke will meet the highly impressive and highly fancied Galbraith Group Nelson in this Saturday’s final at Trafalgar Park after it beat Huia 24-9 to remain undefeated in 2012.
The final will be played at Trafalgar Park from 2.30pm.
In Tahuna, it was a ferocious contest up front and Stoke’s tight five Ray Packer, Max Glossop, Mike Tyler, Steve Kerr and Ben Douglas fought for every inch, which proved the difference between the two sides, with Stoke winning 24-19 against a very strong Wakatu Hotel Marist side. This ascendency laid the platform for the first try. After ensuing rucks, the ever-present halfback Shawn Begg angled his run off the ruck to find the rampaging number 8 Tevta Koloamatangi running a fantastic attacking line to break the defence and run 40 metres to score, which Jacob converted.
Both teams traded penalties and Stoke headed into half time with a 13-6 lead. Following the break Marist started to claw back at the lead, adding a penalty, then finding its way to the tryline, adding a conversion, to take the lead 16-13.
The Stoke pack was reinvigorated by the introduction of former All Black prop Campbell Johnston and blindside flanker Sam Dempster. From a midfield ruck Shawn made a well-timed clean break to find a flying left winger Chris Little looming on his outside in support who in turn combined with a well-timed pass to the fast finishing right winger Brenton Connell who dived into the corner to take Stoke back into the lead 18-16 with ten to play. Marist struck right away with a penalty goal to take back the lead 19-18 with just six minutes to play.
From the kickoff Stoke forward’s and backs combined to forage deep into the Marist half and were finally rewarded with a penalty and the lead. Stoke used the same strategy again from the kickoff again – same result, and the win.