Gladstone halfback Inia Katia on the break pursued by Carterton No 8 Brock Price, right, in their Tui Cup match in April. Gladstone won this match 50-36. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
RUGBY – Tui Cup final
Within a week of winning last year’s Tui Cup final against Martinborough, Gladstone had already decided their goal was to go back to back.
They now find themselves within one match of achieving that goal but standing in their way are a youthful Carterton side looking to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Gladstone made it to the final after an impressive 37-25 win over Martinborough in last weekend’s semifinal, and coach Steve Thompson said they were right where they wanted to be.
“I’m really pleased – that [making the final] was our goal right from day one, or actually within a week of last year’s final.
“That was what the guys wanted to do, and they’ve stuck with that.”
Gladstone would have to start as slight favourites with the amount of experience they have, coupled with the fact they have beaten Carterton twice this season.
But Thompson knows how dangerous Carterton can be, and it was only a missed conversion that stopped them securing a draw the last time the two sides met.
“Last time we played Carterton they pushed us right to the end and they could feel like they should have won that match.
“We need to keep our composure – I’m comfortable of where we’re at.
“You’re only as good as what the opposition let you be, but I’m happy with where we are.”
For Gladstone, it will be about maintaining their standards one last time and building their excitement levels throughout the week.
“It’s just a matter of applying ourselves again,” Thompson said.
“Once we got through last week, you do get excited with it – but we have to make sure we’re in the right head space come Saturday.”
Carterton had to fight for everything in a tense 29-27 semifinal win over Greytown last weekend, and the win was especially pleasing after they fell at the semifinal hurdle last year.
Coach Chris Senior said they had been building since that semifinal loss.
“We’re a young team – the newer buys are getting a little bit older and learning to deal with ebbs and flows of games.
“You kind of saw that in the semifinal on Saturday – we didn’t do too well once Greytown had that big momentum swing, but to have the maturity to turn around and get that final try was key, because in previous years we probably wouldn’t have won that game.”
The momentum swing he referred to was a 20-minute period in which Greytown scored 19 unanswered points and Carterton hardly touched the ball.
If that happens again today, there is a good chance they will not come out on the winning side.
Senior was happy to hand the favourites tag to Gladstone but is well aware of the significant progress his side have made this season.
“They’re a classy team – they don’t make mistakes, and any slip-ups you have, they seem to take advantage of it.
“But we’ll take some confidence out of the fact we should have drawn with them, and finals are totally different and it’s about starting again.”
Tui Cup final: Gladstone v Carterton, Memorial Park No 1 at 3pm [Alistair Payne].
Plate final: Marist v East Coast, Memorial Park No 1 at 11am [Mike Wakefield].
Top four final: Pioneer v Puketoi, Memorial Park No 1 at 1pm [Ryan Hardman].
Middle four final: Pioneer OB v Featherston, Memorial Park No 3 at 12.30pm [Peter Semmens].
Bottom four final: Eketahuna v Gladstone, Memorial Park No 2 at noon [Pat Baucke].
Wairarapa College v HIBS, Waicol at 2.30pm [Scott Andrew].