MSP, who are second on the Swindale Shield points table, went into this match at Evans Bay needing to see off the challenge from third-placed Upper Hutt (see video highlights below). They achieved that comfortably in the end with a 26-6 result but made hard work of scoring in a match they largely dominated.
In a physical first half it was all penalties, with Andrew Wells, who looked at home at first-five, landing four to Upper Hutt's one. While the MSP pack was dominating scrums and lineouts, the slick Upper Hutt backs always looked threatening.
Turning with a 12-3 halftime advantage, MSP were soon hammering away at the Upper Hutt line but poor option taking and solid defence from the vistors kept them out. MSP turned down a kickable penalty but couldn't cross and it was Upper Hutt who scored next with a three-pointer.
MSP was soon back on the Upper Hutt line only to be held up again under the posts. Everyone was desperate to score the clincher. Replacement flanker Isaac O'Connor, who made some impressive bursts when he came on, finally broke the defensive line nearly 30 minutes into the half. From a five-metre scrum, halfback Peter Sciascia ran wide to put Isaac into a hole and he burst through for the try.
Two minutes later, Upper Hutt were in MSP territory for one of the few times in the half when second-five Isaia Petelo finally made the game safe for the home team. Just outside his own 22, he stripped the ball from an Upper Hutt attacker and sprinted 75 metres down the sideline to dive over in the corner. Andrew Wells landed an excellent conversion to wrap the game up, MSP holding on to the Bill Brien Challenge Cup they had won from Wainui last week.
MSP's big pack, who battered away at Upper Hutt all afternoon, can take a lot of credit for the win. Veteran prop and player-of-the-day Kas Lealamanua was outstanding, with Lua Lokotui, Tevita Ah Wong and Sio Tuia not far behind.