Carterton halfback Isaac Bracewell is full steam ahead. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
It will be a case of all roads leading to Martinborough when matches in the Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup premier division rugby competition resume today after a week’s break.
Highlight of what will be the fifth series of qualifying round games will unquestionably be the fixture between ever-improving Carterton and unbeaten Martinborough on the latter’s home turf and a cracker of a game is in prospect.
Martinborough deserve to start favourites. Not only do last year’s beaten finalists have form on the board to suggest they will be mighty hard to bowl over but they have the incentive of knowing that if they can maintain their winning streak all the way to the end of the first round, they will become the new holders of the Chris Kapene Memorial Trophy.
And that would be a huge moment for a club which “Moose” Kapene served so well for so many years.
Even now, the mention of his name brings back memories of those charging runs in broken play which had local fans out of their seats and cheering him on.
But Martinborough will be wary of a Carterton side who have a rugged enough pack to win their share of possession and a backline fired up by the astuteness of their halves combination – Isaac Bracewell and Daryl Pickering – and the penetration of midfielder Nicholas Gordon.
It is in overall mobility, however, that Martinborough may have the winning edge. They have shown in all their matches thus far a willingness to play the game at pace and to attack from practically anywhere on the paddock. And while it has been backs such as Tipene Haira, Tristan Flutey and Nikora Ewe who have generally been the beneficiaries of these tactics, the attacking impact of forwards Chris Raymond and James Pakoti should not be underestimated either.
Two other premier division matches will also be played today, both at Memorial Park. Squaring off on the artificial turf will be Masterton Red Star and East Coast while Marist will host Greytown on the No 2
Masterton Red Star have not had the most comfortable of returns to the top level this season but that is largely understandable because of the loss of many key players from their senior reserve title-winning 2017 side due to the lateness of their promotion.
They will again be the underdogs against an East Coast side who have made a handy start to their latest campaign, but you get the feeling Masterton Red Star will be more competitive here than they have been in their previous four games.
Their main challenge will revolve around keeping an innovative East Coast backline in check.
A similar scenario is likely between Marist and Greytown.
Greytown will be expected to call the tune but if Marist manage to largely nullify the proven attacking talents of the Greytown loosies and outside backs, a much closer result than generally anticipated could eventuate.
Defending Tui Cup champions Gladstone hosted Eketahuna under lights at the Steve Thompson Domain last night.