Matt Pansters winning a lineout for Masterton Red Star. JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
jake.beleski@age.co.nz

For the second time in 12 months, Masterton Red Star are preparing for the promotion-relegation rugby match, but this time they are in the box seat.

This time last year, Red Star had won the senior reserve competition but were beaten 48-27 by East Coast in the promotion-relegation fixture.

Pioneer’s withdrawal from the premier division on the eve of this year’s competition handed Red Star a lifeline and they were promoted to the top flight.

Ironically, it is Pioneer they will face today at Memorial Park [noon] in the battle for a spot in next year’s premier competition.

Red Star failed to win a match in the Tui Cup this year, but they know all too well how big the jump is from senior reserves to premier football, and coach Brent McGlashan hoped their experience from this season would hold them in good stead.

“It wasn’t unexpected for us to be here, and it’s something we’ve been planning for for quite a while.

“That was our whole goal for the season was to get through it and hang in there, play the promotion-relegation match and hopefully we’ve learned enough through the season that we can take it into the game.”

Red Star were on the back foot before the season began after several of their senior players had transferred to other clubs to play premier rugby.

When they were promoted it was too late to get those players back, but there is hope some may return if they can keep their spot for next year.

Coming up against an opposition they haven’t played this season means there is a sense of unknown ahead of the match, but that is no excuse for Red Star.

“It’s always hard to play someone when we haven’t seen a hell of a lot of them,” McGlashan said.

“We don’t know how to plan for them so we’ll stick to what we’ve set up this season and our processes, and it will be up to them to keep up with us I suppose.”

The scorelines may have made for sorry reading this season, but McGlashan said his players had loved the challenge of competing against the best in the region, and were keen to come back for more next year.

“They’ve learned heaps this season and hopefully we can take that through to next year.

“We’re just going to get this week out of the way and see what comes of it, and then start planning straight away.”

Pioneer qualified for the promotion-relegation match after beating Puketoi 18-5 in last weekend’s senior reserve final at the same venue.

They have the added benefit of coming into the match with momentum behind them, while Red Star’s last outing was a 19-52 loss to Marist on July 21.

DRAW

SATURDAY
Promotion-relegation: Red Star v Pioneer, Memorial Park No 1 at noon [Atene Karauria].

TUESDAY
Representative: Wairarapa-Bush v NZ Army, Memorial Park No 1 at 7pm [Tim Griffiths].