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Crunch time in Lane Penn Cup

Only four points separate the top five teams in the race for the Lane Penn Cup. CHRIS COGDALE previews the penultimate round of games.
RUGBY

Greytown vs Carterton

Greytown 2.35 pm [Alistair Payne]

Both teams are coming off big wins, and the prized Grant Cup is on the line and Old Timers Day adds up to a potential blockbuster at Greytown.

Two-time defending champions Carterton moved to within a point of leaders Carterton with their 60-24 trouncing of Pioneer, and Greytown overcame a spirited start by East Coast to run away in the second half for a 48–6 win and progress to fourth in the standings.

Greytown coach Kerin Herlihy reckons a repeat of the “pretty average start last week” could be fatal against a Carterton side starting to hit their straps.

“Carterton, I’ve watched them on tape, and their big boppers get rolling, and we need to control that because they’ve got some good ball runners,” Herlihy said.

“We need a good start and play to the conditions. If it’s a good day, we can be a bit more expansive, but if it’s wet, we need to adjust to that.”

Instrumental in Greytown’s recent good form are three of their senior statesmen: No. 8 Tana Isaac, who defies his 43 years; first-five Nick Olson, who has lost some pace but controls play with aplomb; and winger Charlie Brown, who has lost none of his nose for a try.

Herlihy, though, is well aware of the threat posed by Carterton’s dangermen, prop-No.8 Tupou Lea’aemanu, the big ball running Fijian brothers Malakai and Iserili Biumaiwai, the counterattacking skills of Inia Katia, and lightning attackers in the backs in Aseri Waqa and Billy Leberi.

“If we play well, and we’ll have to play very well, we’re a good chance, but Carterton are reigning champions and back-to-back champions.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: This should be a doozy with no quarter given. Maybe Carterton have more attacking threats, but never count out Greytown on their home patch. Carterton, just.

Marist vs Eketāhuna

Mem Park No. 2, 2.35 pm
[Shay O’Gorman]

“We’re keen and looking forward to it, and there’s the opportunity to take the round out if things go our way.”

That’s the assessment from first-year Eketāhuna coach Anthony Rowden ahead of tomorrow’s must-win clash.

Marist are sitting on 18 points, with Eke on 16, and the winners will remain in the hunt with one round to play. Rowden reckons his players are relishing their good start to the season after two lean years when Eke only won one game.

“Some of the guys have never been in this situation before,” Rowden said, “We have guys who’ve had their first win for Eketāhuna and to be sitting on 16 points; if you’d told me that five or six weeks ago, I would’ve laughed at you.”

Rowden is conscious of the threat posed by Marist after their 45–12 demolition of Martinborough, whereas Eke rode their luck in beating Masterton Red Star 29–24.

“It’s going to be a tough battle. Obviously, they’re improving and will be very confident after their win the other day, but we need to be consistent for longer and eliminate the silly handling errors.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: A high-scoring, entertaining game with good attacking threats in both teams. Marist, but not by a lot.

Masterton Red Star
vs Martinborough

Colombo Road 2.35 pm
[Kaleb Rowlands]

A bonus point victory for Martinborough over the winless Masterton Red Star would retain their lead in the first round, but coach James Bruce is not prepared to write off their much-improved opponents.

“They are very good at set piece, very well coached, and there’s nothing too much surprising; they stay in the games and often lead early, and that shows they will get better and better, which is cool for our rugby,” Bruce said.

“A young group of boys, and by looking at scores, I don’t think they give up either because there have been no major blowouts, so they are there or thereabouts, they’re a threat, and are anybody’s bogey team on the day.”

Although Martinborough are entitled to be warm favourites, Bruce will be without several key players due to injury, with five front-rowers, including Wairarapa Bush rep Ty Waight [shoulder] and starting midfielders Harry Eschenbach [hamstring] and Michael Bing [calf], sidelined.

Speedy fullback Shane Colton will likely be back after sitting out last week’s heavy loss to Marist.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Stars have shown they can match it with most opposition. Could tomorrow be their chance to break their duck? Maybe, but Marty, injuries and all, should have just enough to get over the line.

Pioneer vs East Coast

Jeans Street 2.35 pm [Chris Jefferies]

A frustrated Pioneer coach, Victor Thompson, admits he can’t “quite nail” what is wrong with his misfiring team ahead of tomorrow’s clash with East Coast.

Both teams are coming off big losses, but Pioneer, in particular, were well off their game in conceding 60 points to a rampant Carterton.

“Defence and trusting each other; that’s where we’re getting it wrong,” Thompson said.

“We’re not just quite getting there and getting into our systems. I can’t quite nail it yet; we look good at training; we’ve just got to transfer it to the field.”

“Putting it together on the park is easier said than done at the moment, but we’ve got to start this week.”

Although backs Shane Harmon and Vinnie Harmon and tighthead prop Jerome Graham are on the injured list, Pioneer will still have a useful starting XV, with loose forwards Jonte Miller and Himiona Haira and utility backs Reece Calkin and Nikora Ewe all on deck.

Thompson expects no surprises from the Coasties in what is sure to be a typically feisty encounter between the close rivals.

“They gain good ground in their forwards with their pick and goes and creating opportunities from there, so we’ve got to defend well around the ruck,” he said.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Nothing but pride is on the line, so it’s hard to gauge what attitude the teams will bring, but for the sake of picking a winner, Pioneer by a whisker.

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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