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Match may decide cup winner

CHARGE: Nick Olsen playing at either centre or fullback has speed and skill to create havoc. PHOTO/CHRIS KILFORD
CHARGE: Nick Olsen playing at either centre or fullback has speed and skill to create havoc. PHOTO/CHRIS KILFORD

THE battle for the Moose Kapene Cup for the first round of the Wairarapa-Bush club rugby championship is intense with only two weekends of matches to play.

Pioneer lead the competition on 20 points, one point ahead of Greytown, with Marist on 18 points.

The winner of the cup could well be decided in tomorrow’s match between the top two teams at Greytown.

The home team comes into the game on the back of an upset loss to Gladstone, while Pioneer have really hit their straps in recent weeks putting 40 points on Gladstone and Eketahuna.

Greytown’s consistency is their set pieces. The scrum is rarely bettered and, in Regan Pope and Gareth van Dalen, they have two of the better lineout forwards in the region.

Where they let themselves down last weekend was at the breakdown where they failed to quell Gladstone’s in-your-face approach.

Any repeat of that would bring the big Pioneer ball carriers into the game.

The southerner’s backline has been hampered with several injuries to key players, but in the likes of Nick Olsen, whether he plays at centre or fullback, and winger Nick Robertson, they have the players with speed and skill to create havoc.

Pioneer have steadily improved as the season has progressed and have been unbeaten since a narrow first round loss to Marist.

They certainly have the size to match Greytown at scrum and lineout time – whether they have the fitness levels for a full 80-minute effort could be the deciding factor.

Pioneer also have plenty of try-scoring ability in the backline and, in Joseph Thompson, they have one of the competition’s more consistent goal kickers.

Prediction: Very close, but Greytown to sneak it by 12 under.

Marist will stay in the hunt for first round honours with a bonus point victory over Eketahuna on the Memorial Park turf.

The match looks to be one of contrasting styles; Marist’s enterprising back play up against Eketahuna’s rugged forward approach.

If the Marist forwards can set a solid platform in the set pieces, their backline could have a field day on the artificial turf.

It will be Eketahuna’s first game on the surface and that could find them out in the end.

Players in rugby and football matches have reported that the pace of the game on the turf means fitness levels have to be higher than ever.

Prediction: Marist too much pace and skill in the backs, 13 plus.

Fourth place is up for grabs at Martinborough where the home team take on Gladstone.

After a slow start to the season, Martinborough’s form has improved over recent weeks, with solid wins over East Coast and Carterton.

Much of that can be attributed to former West Coast representative Tim Priest, who has brought a steadying influence to first-five, and given the team a consistent goal kicker.

Gladstone have been hit by injury to several key players. Winger Cameron Hayton is expected to return from a hamstring injury, however, the availability of experienced lock Andrew McLean is still in doubt.

Gladdy should still have the goods to get parity with Martinborough in the forward exchanges and give backs like the tricky Inia Katia room to weave their magic.

Prediction: A tight one, but Gladstone to take the points, 12 under.

The bottom two placed teams front at Whareama. East Coast have yet to register a win, while Carterton’s only victory was against Eketahuna two weeks ago.

The Coasters rely on their forward pack, having lost several backs during the off season. Carterton have been somewhat of an enigma. They have the size, skill and experience, but have failed to live up to expectations thus far.

Prediction: A dour affair, Carterton just, 12 under.

Wairarapa Times-Age