GOAL kicking may be an issue for Gladstone in the final of the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union’s Tui Cup premier division competition at Memorial Park, Masterton, on Saturday.
First-five William Silvey would normally be first cab off the rank in the goal kicking department for Gladstone but he is a doubtful starter after suffering an arm injury in the 19-17 semifinal win over Pioneer at the Jeans St grounds in Masterton last weekend.
Gladstone have a ready-made replacement for Silvey in the No10 jersey in Scott Evans but his absence would raise question marks as to who would take over the goal kicking responsibilities.
“It’s a bit of a blow but it’s the sort of thing you have to deal with, and we’ll just have to come up with an answer,” was Gladstone coach Steve Thompson’s typically understated comment when asked to reflect on Silvey’s probable withdrawal. “There are a couple of (goal-kicking) options available to us, there’s no need for panic.”
Gladstone may also need to replace promising youngster Matt Macrae at second-five for the final. He strained a knee against Pioneer and if he fails to recover sufficiently over the next couple of days the odds are Jock Cameron will slot into that role. Like Evans, Cameron is no stranger to premier division play, having been part of the Gladstone starting line-up on numerous occasions this season.
Greytown came through their 21-13 semifinal win over Marist at Greytown on Saturday unscathed as far as injuries were concerned. Experienced prop Brent Rudman was a late withdrawal from that game when he took a knock at training on the Thursday and coach Sam Mitchell is not anticipating him being available for Saturday’s game either. That would mean Max McGilvary retaining his place in the front row alongside fellow prop Kurt Simmonds and hooker Lance Buchanan.
Neither coach is claiming favouritism for the final, which is hardly a surprise considering the closeness of their two clashes this season, Gladstone scraping home 32-31 in the first and Greytown winning 26-22 in the second.
Both Thompson and Mitchell are adamant they will be looking for more consistent efforts from their sides than than they produced in their semifinal successes.
Thompson was “very disappointed” at the lack of intensity and accuracy in Gladstone’s first half against Pioneer, at the end of which they trailed 10-0. He addressed the situation at the break in a fashion which would hopefully shock his side into lifting their performance by several notches.
“I guess I was bit more direct than usual but they needed a shake up, and I’ve got to say they responded really well,” he said. “That second half effort was about as good as we have had all season. We need 80 minutes of that on Saturday and we should do well.”
Mitchell said Greytown would “very definitely” have to lift the bar if they were to thwart the Gladstone challenge.
He was pleased with the character they had shown to beat Marist after being behind at least twice during the game but conceded the cohesiveness between forwards and backs was not always as good as he would have liked.
“There are plenty of things for us to work on. We certainly need to be better in a number of areas,” he said.
Greytown did not manage a try against Marist with Byron Karaitiana scoring all their points through the boot (five penalties and two dropped goals) but they seem to have greater attacking depth in their backs than Gladstone, who rely more on the individual talents of players such as Inia Katia and Cameron Hayton.
For coaches Thompson and Mitchell though it will be the battle for forward supremacy which could hold the trump card on Saturday. They expect a battle royal with older hands like Greytown’s Kurt Simmonds, Norm Henricksen and Johnny Avatea and Gladstone’s Lance Graves, Andrew McLean and John Stevenson sure to be prominent in the all-important tighter exchanges. There should be little in that, and in the final scoreline either.
By Gary Caffell – Wairarapa Times-Age