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Crunch games in club round

The race for the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup is only two rounds old, but already there are crunch games, with the potential for a gap to develop between the top four and bottom four after tomorrow’s round. CHRIS COGDALE previews some intriguing encounters tomorrow.


Pioneer vs Masterton Red

Star Rams Jeans Street 2.35pm
[Alistair Payne]

The two equal fourth-placed teams line up for the “Battle of the Bridge” version two on Pioneer’s home ground, and another close game is likely.

Pioneer won the first-round encounter 24–15 in April, but on that occasion, the Rams were in many ways their own worst enemies, with poor option taking at times and errors leading to Pioneer’s decisive tries.

Since then, the Rams have got the monkey off their back with their first premier win in almost 12 years, an upset 32–19 defeat of Greytown. However, last week’s 24–10 loss to East Coast gave the Rams a swift reality check.

Pioneer were undone 57–12 by a rampant Marist in the first round of the championship but bounced back with a confidence-boosting 32–25 win over Eketāhuna last week, a victory based on a strong defensive effort.

“We defended well,” Pioneer coach Victor Thompson said, “They had a few long passages of play with the ball, and most of the time, we kept them out, but there were a few individual breaks that let us down. The stats had the tackling percentage at over 80 per cent so that definitely helps.”

Thompson is targeting tomorrow’s game as a must-win in Pioneer’s push for the top four and anticipates it will be decided in the forward exchanges.

“We’re expecting big things from our forwards this week, and we just have to dominate the set piece,” he said.

“Their scrum has been going pretty well the last couple of games I’ve watched, so we’ll have to put a big effort in there and at lineout time, I think we can disrupt it a bit.”

Thompson has a full squad for the match with influential midfielder Nikora Ewe and lock Tama Leaf back after missing the win over Eketāhuna.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Tough to pick a winner, and it should be close, but just so I don’t get splinters, Pioneer on their home track.

Carterton vs Eketāhuna

Carterton 2.35pm [Chris Jefferies]

Carterton will celebrate their strong Pacific island connection with their second ‘Pasifika Day’ at the club tomorrow.

The day will start as usual, with the senior reserves hosting Tuhirangi at 1 pm, followed by the premiers taking on Eketāhuna, another club with strong Pasifika representation.

Carterton president Steve Hurley said people are encouraged to wear Pasifika clothing, but the celebration kicks off after the match. MC Luther Toloa will introduce island songs and dances, and traditional island food, cooked in an umu, will be served. A kava session is likely to follow.

On the field, though, Carterton will be seeking revenge for their first-round loss [37–36], and Eketāhuna coach Anthony Rowden expects a backlash.

“We have to be at 110 per cent and they at 80 per cent,” Rowden said.

“We’ll give them a good run for their money, and we’ll turn up and put in a solid 80-minute effort.”

The Pasifika influence is sure to be evident on the field as well. Carterton have game-breakers such as a rampaging prop or No. 8 Tupou Lea’aemanu, the Biumaiwai brothers – Malakai at lock and Isireli at loose forward – a bulked-up Fiula Tameilau in the midfield, the speedy Aseri Waqa, and the unpredictable Inia Katia at halfback to create havoc in the defence.

Eketāhuna Fijian connection is also making their presence felt, with utility forward Sekove Finau and outside backs Lesikoro Ilisea and Nacanieli Buadromo potential matchwinners.

Both teams come into the game on the back of losses, Carterton going down 31–29 to a last-minute Marist penalty and Eketāhuna falling 32–25 to Pioneer.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Carterton should bounce back and record win number two, but it could be a lot closer than many expect. East Coast vs Martinborough

Whareama 2.35 pm [Shay O’Gorman]

Little generally separates the Coasties and Martinborough whatever their respective positions on the points table, and especially at Whareama. Their last two clashes on East Coast’s home ground have been won by two and four points by Martinborough, and coach James Bruce expects a similar torrid battle tomorrow.

“I know what that’s like and what that entitles,” Bruce said.

“It’s a hard graft, and it’s a team that doesn’t give up in the back of my mind. We’ve got to make sure everybody else knows that.”

Both teams bring winning form into the game, although both have been ravaged by injuries and who is fit to get out on the paddock could be the toughest challenge facing both coaches.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: I’m tempted to sit on the fence, but for the sake of picking a winner, Martinborough, with no great conviction.

Greytown vs Marist

Greytown 2.35 pm [Kaleb Rowlands]

It might be too early to say tomorrow’s clash with unbeaten leaders Marist is a must-win for Greytown, but a third-straight loss for the 2023 runners-up would certainly puncture their top-four aspirations.

Greytown stumbled to a shock loss to Masterton Red Star [32–19] and a narrow defeat to Martinborough [24–15] in their first two games of the ‘Moose Kapene’ and need a determined response to avoid slipping behind the pack.

In their favour, Greytown have plenty of experience in the likes of veteran brothers Tana and Tavita Isaac, first-five Nick Olson, and midfielder Cyrus Baker, who know what it takes to dig deep and win when it matters most.

However, standing in their way are a confident Marist with a solid, hardworking pack that is seldom bettered and outstanding attacking threats in Charles and Willy Mataitai in the midfield, Hayden Cooper on the wing, and the calming influence of Tafa Tafa, wherever he fits into the backline.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: On recent form, Marist should take this out, but never underestimate Greytown when their backs are to the wall.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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