Defending champions Gladstone can expect a decent challenge from Carterton in their Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup rugby match at Carterton today.
Even a cursory glance at the all-round strengths of the two teams would suggest that Gladstone should have the upper hand, but with ground conditions sure to be soft at best, the forwards are likely to take centre stage, and that is something that will suit the Carterton cause.
With Wairarapa-Bush reps Lochie McFadzean and Jacko Hull leading the way, Carterton have a pack which should at least break even in the setpieces, something which is crucial if they want to curb the broken play skills of an impressive Gladstone loose forward trio spearheaded by the dashing Epeli Rayaqayaqa.
It will be important for Carterton too that the defence of their backs is up to scratch for, even if conditions are against moving the ball around, Gladstone are sure to try their luck in that regard, such are the natural instincts of players like Inia Katia, Matt Macrae, Cameron Hayton and a newcomer on the wing who looked impressive in their 67-3 walloping of Marist last weekend, Thomas Poturu.
Martinborough grabbed the headlines by posting 17 tries and a century of points against Masterton Red Star in their first-round fixture but they can expect sterner opposition from East Coast at Martinborough tomorrow.
East Coast provided what could be described as the upset of the opening round when they held Greytown to an 8-8 draw and, while they don’t have anything like the depth of Martinborough in their playing resources, they do have rugged types such as Joe Feast and Hayden Kerr who won’t take a backward step in the forward exchanges.
And, in the backs, the Arnold brothers – Brian and Josh – will relish the opportunity to pit their skills against a star-studded Martinborough rearguard including Wairarapa-Bush reps Tipene Haira, Tim Priest and Nikora Ewe.
Whichever way you look at this game Martinborough should have the upper hand but not perhaps by as many points as some pundits might expect.
The third Tui Cup match being played today will feature Greytown and Eketahuna with Greytown having home advantage. Here too, favouritism will clearly lie with Greytown, but Eketahuna did well enough in their 26-12 loss to Carterton last weekend to suggest they could make a close game of it.
They will, however, be adversely affected by the almost certain absence of a couple of key players – back Robbie Anderson and loose forward Brendan Campbell.