By WALT DICKSON
Stranger things have happened, but Eketahuna qualifying for the Tui Cup Finals is not likely to be among them.
Sitting pretty this time last week the yellow-and-black hoops had it all in their favour when they hosted a Gladstone side who themselves were facing a tall order.
Gladstone came away from that match with maximum points and are now in the box seat to take the fourth qualifying spot.
Eketahuna on the other hand has the daunting prospect of heading to Carterton and winning, while also hoping that Pioneer can roll Gladstone at Jean Street.
For Eke coach Chris Osborne it is a massive mountain to climb, but one he believes his side can scale.
“We are going to have to be at our best, and if we do that we can beat any team [in the competition].”
In the context of the overall season last weekend’s 15-27 loss to Gladstone was hugely frustrating for Osborne.
“We just didn’t execute the game plan, and probably didn’t want it as much as they did.”
Losing first-five eighth Dan Hooper for the match was also a big blow, Osborne says. Hooper has been a pivotal player for Eketahuna but with knee ligament trouble has probably played his last game for the season.
Matching Carterton upfront will be key to toppling the Moose Kapene Cup champions this Saturday.
“We’ve got to be physical and put them under pressure.”
In Sam Gammie, Johan van Vliet and BJ Campbell Eketahuna have arguably the best loose forward trio in the competition.
Osborne says they will be treating the game as if it is a final.
But even winning – and with a bonus point – is not going to guarantee them a spot in the play-offs. That will ultimately be determined by Pioneer who host Gladstone.
With one match to play Eketahuna is still a point outside the top four: Carterton 48, Greytown, 44, Marist 40, Gladstone 37, Eketahuna 36, Pioneer 32, East Coast 21, Martinborough 7.
Mathematically Pioneer can still qualify but that will require them whipping Gladstone by a huge margin and also Eketahuna coming away from their trip to Carterton empty handed.
On the back of last weekend’s result Gladstone will more than fancy their chances against Pioneer. It was do-or-die against Eketahuna and Steve Thompson’s side came away with the full quota of points.
Pioneer will have a point to prove and will also be wanting to settle the score after Gladstone beat them 23-17 in round one.
Meanwhile, there will be plenty of interest in the main fixture at Trust House Memorial Park between Greytown and Marist. Second and third on the table this match could well be repeated the following weekend in one of the semi-finals. Marist should have put Carterton away last weekend while Greytown look to be finding the sort of form that saw them crowned champions last year.
Carterton v Eketahuna, Carterton
Marist v Greytown, Trust House Memorial Park
Pioneer v Gladstone, Jean Street
East Coast v Martinborough, Whareama