By WALT DICKSON
Bragging rights will be up for grabs when Greytown hosts neighbours’ Martinborough on Saturday, as well as a spot in the Tui Cup Grand Final.
The ledger is all square between the two sides in 2017 – Greytown comfortably winning the round one contest, with Martinborough edging them out in the return leg.
For Greytown head-coach Eli Telford, past results are irrelevant. So to is who you gonna play in the semi-finals.
“It’s sudden death now. If you don’t win this one there is no turning up the following Saturday,” Telford says.
There is no denying that Martinborough has hit a rich vein of form on their run into the semi-finals.
But don’t think that would’ve muzzled coach James Bruce at training this week. Brucy’s ‘lamb-chops’ are sure to have been flapping from barking orders at his chargers.
Marty has made too much progress in 2017 for it to all fall over nearing the last hurdle. It wasn’t until their fifth match that Martinborough chalked up their first win. They have tracked a pretty good path since, particularly in recent weeks, posting 166-points in the last three outings.
Bruce puts it in part down to an “easy run” at the back end of the season, but also concedes that his side is hitting its straps.
The team has been a work in progress for the last couple of seasons with a lot of young blokes making in their way into the squad. The new breed brings with it a level of energy and hunger that, when combined with the “old heads”, makes for an exciting brand of rugby.
Bruce reckons one of his side’s biggest strengths is the skill set across the whole squad.
“All our forwards can pass like backs and put other guys into holes. That has been building for a couple of years and I suppose is kind of all coming together now.”
In Tipi Haira, Tim Priest and Armyn Sanders, Martinborough has some top shelf backs, while at centre Tristan Flutey is an exciting prospect.
Back-to-back defending champions Greytown know how to win the big games and will bring a huge level of intensity to this one.
Although there will be no Tavita Isaac, Greytown isn’t lacking in leadership and experience. Stepping into the breach has been an exciting new crop of players that have helped navigate Greytown into the play-offs. Among them is loosie Chaz Matthews who has been “awesome” with a phenomenal work rate.
In experienced forwards Nick Hohepa, lock Regan Pope and loose forwards Tana Isaac, Greytown has a formidable engine room.