Andrew McLean scoring a try for Gladstone against Pioneer in May. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

By Gary Caffell

Pacesetters Gladstone are likely to find Carterton a handful in their Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup premier division rugby match at Carterton tomorrow.

Gladstone lead the standings on 33 points and Carterton are third on 25 — suggesting that Gladstone should start firm favourites to chalk up an eighth win in nine matches.

Carterton’s win over Pioneer a fortnight ago might have come through a runaway try to promising young winger Chester Rothery right on the stroke of fulltime but considering they were without several regular players, there was more merit in it than what might have appeared on face value.

Gladstone have been able to rely on experienced forwards such as Andrew McLean, Andrew Smith, Richard Puddy and John Stevenson to dominate the forward exchanges.

But Carterton have plenty of talent in that area as well, including Lachie McFadzean, Jacko Hull and promising youngster Adam Gordon.

If they can break even in the battle for possession, they have enough sting in their backs to give Gladstone a decent run for their money.

Another premier division clash which could go right down to the wire is that between Martinborough (22pts) and Pioneer (21pts).

Martinborough have clearly been the big improvers in recent weeks while Pioneer’s form has been rather mixed and on that basis Martinborough, who are sure to have an army of supporters at their home venue, might have the edge.

Marist (18pts) will be desperate to keep themselves in contention for the championship playoffs by picking up the maximum 5pts against East Coast (0pts) in their match at Memorial Park, and should do so, and while hosts Greytown (30pts) can expect some curry from Eketahuna (17pts) in the forward exchanges, they should still get home by a comfortable margin.