The sub-union finalists both enjoyed wins at the weekend ahead of the Nelson club rugby final on June 4.
Marist and Stoke were victorious in their opening cross-over encounters on Saturday, the green machine sending Stoke a strong statement, hammering Moutere 57-5 while the Eagles needed a last minute try to scrape past Waitohi 31-29.
Stoke struck first after a fortuitous bounce from a Sam Chamberlain cross kick fell for fullback Chris Little to run in under the sticks.
A poor lineout throw on their own five metre line saw lock Mike Leger-Kula crash over for Waithohi, Corey Bovey adding the extras to lock things up 7-7.
A high shot from prop Blair Prinsep allowed Bovey to take the lead before barnstorming number 8 Hugo Nankivell regained the ascendency for Stoke.
When Sam put one down the throat of Fetuli Paea, the dangerous fullback put up a bomb which he regathered unopposed to score and take a 17-12 lead after a thrilling half of inter-regional rugby.
Paea slipped through for his second from a blindside scrum move early in the second, Bovey nailing the corner conversion to stretch the lead to 12.
Nankivell then crossed for his second after running a beautiful line off half back Jack Grooby to reduce the deficit to five.
Chamberlain split the ‘Tohis defence wide open soon after, offloading to the ever present Anty Burnett to put Stoke in front 26-24.
The visitors looked to have clinched the win when number 8 Taimi Fangatua powered his way over as Waitohi took a 29-26 lead.
With one play remaining, Waitohi just needed to gather the restart and put it in to touch.
However, Stoke regathered and started a counter attack.
After more than a dozen phases, Stoke went wide to lock Te Ahiwaru Crickdaveta, who produced a miracle offload for Chris Little to score in the corner and steal a stunning 32-29 victory.
Stoke skipper Sam Chamberlain says they will carry the momentum form today’s win into what will be a massive week for the club next week.
“We will prepare hard for it because we know Marist will be tough, but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Meanwhile, Marist ran in nine tries in a dominant display at Tahunanui Field.
It was Marist to open the scoring through James Hawkey who converted his own try to take a 7-0 lead. Just minutes before the break, Marist fullback Cleve Barell split the Moutere line and found number 8 Fuva Takiaki looming up on the inside for the home sides second.
James once again slotted the extra two, as Marist took a 14-0 lead at half time.
A brain explosion by Moutere’s fullback enabled Marist to continue the momentum early in the second.
Instead of forcing an overcooked kick, Lagilagi Seru tried to run it out from his own line before kicking possession straight back to Marist. A beautiful skip pass from the base by replacement half back Connor Karena saw Julias Togafau power over. A fourth soon followed.
Running a brilliant line, Hawkey thundered over to take his personal haul to 18.
After openside Jakob Norris pounced onto a loose Moutere pass, Hawkey muscled his way over the line for his hat-trick as the score line began to blow out.
Jakob was rewarded for his busy afternoon shortly after, again latching onto an error by Moutere at the back of the scrum to take Marist into the forties, Barell missing the first conversion for Marist.
Blindside flanker Te Puoho Stephens got himself in the action, brushing aside half a dozen feeble tackle attempts and linking with Connor who found himself unmarked on the wing, running it in for Marist’s seventh.
Moutere managed a late consolation through number 8 Bill Salabogi with time almost up, but Marist responded immediately, Poihipi Clayton streaking twenty metres to dot down under the bar to bring up the half century.
Sam Briggs then ghosted through the Moutere defence, centre Liam Boshoff finishing off the sweeping movement. Moutere had the final say, Seru making up for his earlier blunder with a five pointer.
Marist captain Tyler McKinnon-Stevenson was wrapt with the 57-point rout He says Marist will be full of confidence ahead of their showdown with Stoke next week.
“We know what it will take to win the final and we will have to work our arses off.”
In Marlborough, both Nelson and Waimea Old Boys registered wins over Central and Renwick.