EVERY one of the six matches being played in the last series of qualifying round matches in the 2015 Heartland rugby championship on Saturday will have something hanging on the result.
The top four teams on the points table at the end of those games will be involved in the Meads Cup play-offs and three, South Canterbury, Mid-Canterbury and Wanganui, have already sealed their spots. The big question remaining for them is who will come first and second, therefore earning home advantage.
For Wairarapa-Bush and Horowhenua-Kapiti, who lie fourth-equal on 22 points, it is very much a matter of which of the two will nail down that position and remain in contention for the Meads Cup. The second-tier Lochore Cup semifinals will feature the teams finishing from five to eight on the points table and just who they will be won’t be clarified until late Saturday afternoon.
A brief look at what Saturday’s results could mean for the combatants:
Wairarapa-Bush (22pts) v Wanganui (28pts) at Masterton: There is plenty at stake for both teams in this one. Wanganui have a Meads Cup semi guaranteed but need at least a couple more points – and probably five – if they are to have any chance of a home match. Wairarapa-Bush need to not only win but also claim an extra bonus point for scoring four or more tries if they are to make the Meads Cup semis as well.
If Wairarapa-Bush and Horowhenua-Kapiti are still equal on competition points after Saturday then you’d have to favour Wairarapa-Bush coming fourth on points differential. Right now, they stand at plus 68 while Horowhenua-Kapiti are plus 15. A Wairarapa-Bush loss wouldn’t be the end of the road for them though as, no matter what happens this weekend, they are assured of at least a home Lochore Cup semi. Same with Horowhenua-Kapiti.
Poverty Bay (10pts) v South Canterbury (30pts) in Gisborne: Poverty Bay have already done an England, they sit second-last on the points table and won’t be playing off for any of the trophies. South Canterbury are a very different kettle of fish. They sit at number one on the competition ladder but could drop to third and therefore lose the hosting rights for a Meads Cup semi if they happen to lose here.
Thames Valley (11pts) v West Coast (16pts) at Paeroa: The Meads Cup semis are out of the question for both these sides and the Lochore Cup semis seem a bridge too far for Thames Valley as well. Not so West Coast though. They are still a big hope for the Lochore Cup play-offs, especially if they can pick up the maximum five points.
Horowhenua-Kapiti (22pts) v Buller (16pts) at Levin: A Meads Cup semifinal could be on the line for Horowhenua-Kapiti. They will be aiming for the maximum five points, a result which would mean Wairarapa-Bush having to replicate that effort against Wanganui to keep Horowhenua-Kapiti from snatching the fourth qualifying spot at the last gasp. Even a bonus point or two might be enough for Horowhenua-Kapiti, who knows? Don’t discount the prospects of a Buller upset though. They probably need a victory to make it to the Lochore Cup semis so won’t lack anything on the score of motivation.
North Otago (18pts) v Mid-Canterbury (29pts) at Oamaru: Pick up five points and North Otago could find themselves in the Meads Cup semis, come away with nothing and they could even struggle to make the Lochore Cup play-offs. The pressure is on them big time. Mid-Canterbury has a Meads Cup semi in the bag but could need a win here to ensure they are playing that game at home.
King Country (16pts) v East Coast (2pts) at Taupo: King Country will know that a five-point haul would almost certainly take them into the Lochore Cup semis. East Coast will simply be looking forward to ending a season which has seen them on the receiving end of numerous hefty beatings.
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age