Jono Hartnell [left], who leads a small but tough Martinborough forward pack, celebrating the 2019 Tui Cup victory with Tipene Haira. PHOTOS/FILE
Traditional derbies highlight the third round of the Moose Kapene Cup. Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE preview’s today’s premier club rugby
Greytown v Martinborough, Greytown, 2.35pm [Scott Andrew].
Competition leaders Greytown are at home to defending champions Martinborough in the game of the round on Old-Timers’ Day.
Martinborough coach James Bruce was relishing the challenge and keen to poke a bit fun at their southern neighbours.
“Most of our boys won’t even stop in Greytown let alone eat there or anything because that’s how much we don’t like it,” he said.
“It’s cool that it’s their Old-Timers’ Day and I quite enjoy that. It’s all about them, so we’ll just slip in there and do the business.”
The Martinborough forward pack have struggled for parity in their 22-25 loss to East Coast and 25-23 win over Eketahuna.
“We’ve got a light forward pack, but we have a lot of small tough boys, such as Jono Hartnell, our prop. He’s not very big but he’s tough as, and the boy Henry Smith [lock], who has come across from playing thirds at Tuhirangi, I wasn’t sure how he was going to go, but he’s gone well.”
Bruce was hoping for a dry ground and a share of possession to set his dangerous backline alight.
“If we get a wet day it’s going be a real hard day at the office,” he said.
Greytown coach Mark Childs was well aware of the threats posed by the defending champions.
“You could say they’ve lost quite a few players from last season’s championship-winning side, but Brucie will have them well-drilled,” he said.
“I think their fitness will be pretty good and I expect them to be a lot more mobile for the full 80 minutes.”
Childs made no secret of where he expected the game will be won.
“We’re going to target them in certain areas, we’re not going to publicise that, but most games are won upfront, so we’ll be looking to have a strong setpiece.
“Our scrum was very good against Gladstone last week, so we’re just going to try and build on that.”
The Nunn Shield, won by Greytown over Gladstone last Saturday, and the Brown Cup, contested between the two clubs are up for grabs in today’s game.
Greytown were very good in their bonus point win over Gladstone. The forwards should get a wealth of possession, and that should be the difference. Martinborough won’t go away, and their dangerous backline will make the most of any tiny advantage. Greytown narrowly in a high-scoring encounter.
Carterton v Gladstone, Carterton, 2.35pm [Alistair Payne].
Carterton go into today’s game with fierce rivals Gladstone looking to partially right an imbalance in the local derby over recent years.
Carterton coach Chris Senior lamented the team’s woeful record against the Steve Thompson-trained side.
“The boys were talking on Tuesday night and [halfback and captain] Darryl [Pickering] was saying he’s played them 18 times and only won twice,” he said.
“You can be as confident as you like, but every team has their bogey team for some reason. That’s our biggest one at Carterton, but these are the games you play rugby for.”
Carterton come into the game after a 15-16 loss to Marist and a 37-10 win over Pioneer. Senior hoped the latter would give the team some momentum.
“It was nice to get the victory, and hopefully from now we can get a roll on.”
Senior doesn’t expect anything different from Gladstone.
“I don’t think they’ve changed much in the past six or seven years. They’ve got their key players, and they use them really well.
“I’d imagine they’ll put the ball behind us a lot and put pressure on us to make mistakes.”
Big centre Denny Lauvi is rated a 50-50 starter for Carterton with a niggly ankle injury.
Very tough call, but I liked the way Carterton fought to the end against Marist, whereas Gladstone fell away towards the end against Greytown. Carterton just, but no surprise if it goes the other way.
East Coast v Pioneer, Whareama, 2.35pm [Rebecca Mahoney].Pioneer coach Nathan [Chopper] Riwai-Couch said the team have let themselves down in the first two games of the season and it could be a long-term fix for the newly-promoted club.
The blue and reds lost 10-38 to Greytown and 10-37 to Carterton and Riwai-Couch said they “have to wear those on the chin”.
“We let ourselves down with a few errors, and we paid for those in both our games,” he said.
“When you give up three or four tries who knows what could have happened, and that’s a few points that we’ve given up.
“We felt that in both the games we’ve played, we’re more competitive than what is shown.”
The former Wairarapa-Bush midfield back agreed fitness was an issue with the side.
“I’m not going to lie, yep, we’re not where we want to be or should be, but we have to soldier through that, as we’re not going to get any fitter or stronger over the seven days between games.
“It doesn’t start at 2.30pm on Saturday — it starts at training, and that’s where we’re going to have get things right first and see where we go.”
East Coast, who started with a 25-22 win over Martinborough and then a 31-38 loss to Marist, will be entitled to favouritism, but like many local derbies, there is something special about an East Coast-Pioneer game.
“Talking to a few of the old boys, it’s traditionally a family reunion really, where a lot of the Maori families, in particular, whakapapa back to each other, so it adds a little bit extra to the occasion,” Riwai-Couch said.
“Coast are going pretty good from what I’ve heard, and it’s a big ask for our boys to bounce back from a couple of losses, but you only need one win for confidence.”
The Coasties have been very good in their first two games and should have too much fitness for Pioneer, who will only improve, but this may be a game too soon. East Coast to run away late for a bonus-point victory.
Eketahuna v Marist, Eketahuna, 2.35pm [Shay O’Gorman].
Keeping the ball close to the forwards may be the key to an Eketahuna victory against a Marist side boasting a talented backline.
Eketahuna coach Wayne Roach feels his pack would need to stifle the flow of possession to Marist.
“Our forwards went really well the other day, but we’re just a little bit short out wide to be fair,” he said.
“I haven’t heard much about Marist. They’re up there and they’re stronger than other years by the sounds of things, and they’ve got a couple of quicks out wide such as Soli Malatai, and we’ll have to have a plan for that.”
The home side will be without one of their most experienced players, prop Sam Gammie, who popped rib cartilage in last Saturday’s 23-25 loss to Martinborough.
However, Gammie’s replacement Jono Todd, who was taken by ambulance with a neck injury, could make a surprise return.
“It must have been a pretty bad stinger to the neck but he’s okay. He came to training on Tuesday but didn’t train, and he’s thinking about sitting on the bench for us,” Roach said.
A third straight loss won’t end Eketahuna’s top-four chances, but Roach said the team need a confidence booster.
“We just need the win. If we get the win, we’ll be okay I reckon.”
Eketahuna may have a slight edge with their near representative forward pack, but the Marist eight have also impressed in the first two games. The green and whites have a decided advantage in the backs, and that should be the difference. Marist to win a tight tussle