Marist’s season goes on the line
Gladstone out to mark old-timers day
It’s getting near must-win time for some teams in the Moose Kapene Cup. Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE previews the fourth round of premier club rugby.
Marist v Greytown, Marist, 2.35pm [Shay O’Gorman].
“Staying in the fight for the whole 80 minutes” is the message from captain Peter Beech as Marist prepare to host Greytown in a must-win game.
Marist lost to Eketahuna 16-19 last Saturday and sit fourth on the table on seven points after being deducted three points for a team card indiscretion in the first-round win over Carterton, while Greytown head the table on 14 points.
Beech said the Eketahuna loss stung big time.
“I don’t know if we took our foot off the pedal, but at 16-9 a few mistakes slipped in here and there, and there were a few missed tackles and we down under the pump,” Beech said.
“We just didn’t stay in the fight and get up off the ground to make those tackles, and we weren’t assertive enough. We have to put that behind us and move on.”
Every game was a must-win from now on.
“We’ve been in that territory since the first game of the season and then losing three points makes every game must-win for us, so every game’s a knockout.”
Greytown have looked genuine title contenders and the lanky Marist lock predicted a bruising encounter.
“Just from what I’ve heard, they have a good pack and a good backline, and are a real balanced team all-round, with some real strong ball runners, so we just have to muscle up upfront.
“It’s important that we get up off the line and make the tackles against those guys,” said Beech, who would like a firm ground for the talented Marist backline, which includes speedy winger Soli Malatai, and the counter-attacking flair of fullback Tafa Tafa.
“Hopefully, there’s some sunshine, that would definitely go in our favour.”
Neither result would surprise me, but Marist are desperate for a win to avoid slipping down the table. I will pump for the green and whites narrowly.
Pioneer v Eketahuna, Jeans St, 2.35pm [Rebecca Mahoney].
The injury crisis has gone from bad to worse at Eketahuna. First-five Nick Birchfield and former Manawatu Turbos second-five Frankie Bryant were the latest to succumb to injuries, in last Saturday’s 19-16 win over Marist.
Captain Kirk Tufuga was uncertain of their availability for today’s clash with Pioneer.
“We’ve been struggling with numbers from the get-go, and we’ve had boys turn up from the thirds and put in a massive effort for us, but that’s footy though, and we’ll keep pushing.”
The win over Marist was Eketahuna’s first, leaving them in sixth place while Pioneer are bottom of the table with three big losses.
However, Tufuga wasn’t reading anything into previous results and predicted a tough encounter.
“We played then pre-season, and they’re big boys, man. We just have to get to work and move some bodies around, and pretty much try and run them around the park, if weather permits,” he said.
“I know they’ll come out with a hiss and roar, but we’ve got good enough payers to weather that storm and when we see the opportunity, we have to go for it.
The Wairarapa-Bush No 8 and 2019 captain added there was no secret that Eketahuna’s strength is in their near representative forward pack, particularly in the loose forward trio, where he is joined by openside Johan van Vliet and blindside BJ Campbell.
“We’ve been playing together for the past couple of years or so, and we played together for school grades for Wai-Bush. Johan never has a bad game and BJ just keeps taking the ball up and tackles everything.”
Former Canterbury Under-19 lock Tom McKay is another player who has impressed Tufuga.
“That guy has an engine on him, he’s just everywhere around the field. I don’t think he’s missed a tackle, and he brings a lot of youth and energy. He’s just a workhorse, doesn’t do anything flash, and just does his job and that’s all you ask of a player of his calibre. He’s only young and he’ll just improve as we go through the season and through his career.”
Eketahuna will start warm favourites, but Pioneer will eventually click, and when they do, they can be a threat. Whether Pioneer are fit enough to handle a near Wai-Bush rep pack is a different matter. Eketahuna’s forward power to prove the difference in a tight match.
Gladstone v East Coast, Gladstone, 2.35pm [Alistair Payne].
Forty years ago, this weekend, Gladstone ended a decade of dominance by the Masterton and Red Star clubs to claim their first premier club championship since the formation of the combined Wairarapa-Bush union.
The club’s previous championships were in 1958 and 1963.
It was another 21 years before Gladstone won their second Wai-Bush title in 2001. They also added championships in 2007, 2011, 2017, and 2018.
Coach Steve Thompson was part of that 1980 winning squad, which was coached by future Wai-Bush coach and All Black selector Lane Penn, and he said the team would remember the victory over Masterton today with a lunch as part of the club’s Old Timers’ Day.
“Most of the team will be there, except for those who have passed on – Lane Penn, [manager] John White, [prop] Brett Aitkenhead, and [winger-fullback] Johnny Orchard,” he said.
On the field, Thompson said he would tweak a few things to get them right after two consecutive losses, which has Gladstone in sixth equal place, and facing a confident East Coast, who are in second place.
“We were quite lucky when we played Eketahuna, because I thought they were down a bit, and Greytown played very well. Against Carterton, we just didn’t play well enough, and I put it down to not doing things right,” he said.
“East Coast will be pretty tough; they’ve had a few wins and will be riding high.”
Impressive fullback Harry Eschenbach is a doubtful starter after twisting his ankle last weekend and experienced loose forward Eddie Cranston and outside back Josh Gatenby are away.
“We’ve got enough cover, so we’ll be as good as we can be,” Thompson said.
A must-win for Gladstone and plenty to play for on the club’s special day. Whether they’re good enough against the confident fired-up Coasties is the big question. East Coast in a high scoring game.
Martinborough v Carterton, Martinborough, 2.35pm [Scott Andrew].
Defending champions Martinborough go into today’s clash in fifth place, with one win and two losses on six points, and four points behind third-placed Carterton.
Coach James Bruce was happy with the way Martinborough have progressed and was confident the team were on the right track.
“Each weekend we’ve lifted and we’re playing a completely better style of rugby than what we did three weeks ago against East Coast. All we have to do is keep doing that and we’ll be right,” he said.
“We’re not focusing on the win we’re just focusing on getting the little things right and that will lead to the win.”
Bruce was keen for a dry ground so that his star-studded backline, including speedy winger Nathan Hunt, rep players Tristan Flutey, Tipene Haira, Tim Priest, and Alex Priest can shine.
“It’s looking like the weekend’s going to be pretty good, and we’re at home. It will be a pretty tough day for Carterton, because it’s our Old Timers Day as well.”
He was, however, conscious of the threat posed by Carterton.
“They’re pretty organised and well drilled. Chris [Senior] is on to it and they’ve got some good people in key positions, like at eight [Jack Loader] and nine [Darryl Pickering] and Lachie McFadzean at lock.”
“We’re quite aware of what they’ve got, and they’ll be a force at lineout time as Lachie sorts those out pretty well and is good at reading stuff, so we’ll have to be clever and smart around those areas.”
Martinborough showed enough in their 16-17 loss to Greytown last Saturday that they will be a threat at the back end of the competition. Another loss won’t be fatal but could make a top four finish very difficult. A win for Carterton will consolidate their place in the semifinal race. Martinborough’s classy backline should prove the difference – a home side win by 10 points.