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Derbies front and centre

Inia Katia [right] will miss today’s local derby with a knee injury. PHOTOS/FILE

Rivals home in on coveted trophies
Two traditional derbies highlight today’s premier club rugby games. Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE previews the second round of the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup.

Carterton v Greytown, Carterton, 2.35pm [Shay O’Gorman].

Reducing their penalty count is key for Carterton heading into today’s vital clash with unbeaten Greytown.

The Maroons suffered a 20-21 loss to Eketahuna in the opening round last Saturday, with penalties proving a decisive factor.

“When you come up against the better teams who have decent goal-kickers, you can’t afford to give away six to 12 points every game – that’s just not going to win tight games,” coach Neil Rodger said.

Despite the first-up loss, Rodger feels his team are improving with every game but will need to improve against their fierce rivals, who won their ‘Town and Country’ encounter 32-21.

“We just need to get better every week, although I’d have to say last week our backs had an off day. But our forwards played extremely well so if our forwards can do that again this week, we’ll be in the contest.

“Our lineout needs to be better, but has got better every week, and our scrum has probably improved, although it wasn’t too bad against Greytown last time, and it went well last week,” Rodger said.

Carterton will be without their backline master Inia Katia for today’s vital clash.

Katia twisted his knee in a ruck last Saturday and is expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks.

Greytown started the championship with a 34-15 win over East Coast after trailing at halftime, and flanker Rihi Brown is confident his team can extend their unbeaten run if they go in with the right attitude.

“We turned up a little bit flat against East Coast, and it took a bit of a shakeup from Childsey [coach Mark Childs] at halftime to realise that we weren’t going to win if we just ride the wave,” Brown said.

“If we could learn from last time against Carterton, it would be to close out the game without letting them back in because they came home quite strongly.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: If the rain stays away, this should be a good, open game, but if rain arrives as forecast, it could turn into a forward slugfest, which would suit the abrasive Greytown pack. Greytown just.

Marist v Pioneer, Memorial Park No 2, 2.35pm [Alistair Payne].

Captain Jonte Miller missed Pioneer’s ‘Town and Country’ loss to Marist.

The only game between two unbeaten teams. There’s plenty at stake in the local derby with the Warwick-Goodger Memorial Trophy and the Dick Nunn Shield, held by Marist, on the line.

The former means a lot to both teams, with James Goodger being a Marist legend and Vinnie and Warwick played a lot of games for Pioneer.

Marist captain Peter Beech said the trophies add a bit more spice to the traditional Masterton derby, and he expects Pioneer to come out firing after their win over Martinborough – their first since returning to the premier division.

“We’ve just got to match that. They’re going to come out hard and fast and we have to front up to that and stop the waves and waves,” Beech said.

“We’re going to have to make every tackle count and shut down the offloads, so it’s going to be a big day of defence.”

Beech said setpieces would again be Marist’s focus after their dominance there set up last Saturday’s 33-23 win over Gladstone.

Pioneer coach Koti Whittaker hopes to continue the momentum from last week’s 27-25 win over Martinborough but is aware that the defending champions pose an entirely different challenge.

“Their setpiece is quite strong, so we’ve been working on countering that and a few extras, and we will be better drilled this time around,” he said.

Whittaker said it’s important that the team play to their structure, but when given the opportunity, play what is front of them.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Neither result would surprise, but Marist’s setpieces and Paddy Gluck’s game management from first-five should prove the difference.

Eketahuna v East Coast, Eketahuna, 2.35pm [Chris Jefferies].

Vesi Luatua [with ball] has brought size and experience to the Eketahuna middle row.
Eketahuna and East Coast are already aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses having played twice in the past eight weeks.

Coast won the first in a preseason ‘friendly’, and the ‘Town and Country’ clash went Eketahuna’s way, 18-9.

The home side kicked off their championship campaign with a late 21-20 win over Carterton, and the Coasties led 15-14 over Greytown before falling to a 15-34 defeat.

However, Eketahuna co-captain Robbie Anderson was reading little into the results.

“I think the competition is going to be like last year when any team can beat anyone, and it’s just a week-by-week process, and any win is a good win,” he said.

With rain during the week, Anderson is expecting a ‘sticky track’, which he said will suit the Coasties.

“They did beat us up around the tight five the last time, so conditions will probably suit them – which is a little bit of a concern, but we do have a couple of bigger locks we didn’t have last time, which will help the cause.

“We were hoping to have a dry sort of field to try and target them out wide a bit more because our backs in the past couple of games have been dominant.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Tight and ferocious, and the Coasties will be in this for a long time. But Eketahuna are building into a strong unit and should win this on their Old Timers and Sponsors Day.

Gladstone v Martinborough, Gladstone, 2.35pm [Kaleb Rowlands].

The return of lock George Bunnett is a big boost for Martinborough.

Martinborough coach James Bruce is taking nothing for granted despite his team thrashing Gladstone 45-13 in their Town and Country clash three weeks ago.

“They’re in a good position playing us because we beat them well and truly.

“We realise first of all that means nothing because they’re a different team this time around, as we are too,” Bruce said.

Martinborough started with a 25-27 loss to Pioneer, and Gladstone went down 23-33 to Marist.

Bruce has welcomed back big lock George Bunnett, who starred in the green and blacks’ 2019 championship winning run and was outstanding in the loss to Pioneer.

Bunnett adds much-needed steel to the Martinborough forward effort in what are forecast are to be wet conditions.

The rain will suit the home side better, with rugged forwards Andrew McLean, whether he packs at lock or No 8, lock Andrew Smith, and representative loosies Ryan Knell and Eddie Cranston, likely to relish the slower underfoot conditions.

“It could be a wet day and ugly 10-man rugby,” Bruce said.

“They will bring a forward-type battle, and we’ll match that and some, and that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Although Martinborough will start favourites, the conditions could play into Gladstone’s hands. The home side in a tough slog in the wet.

SENIOR RESERVES

The clash between Carterton and Masterton Red Star in the curtain-raiser at Carterton is the feature match of the round, with the teams second equal after four rounds.

Leaders Tuhirangi take on Marist, who are fourth-equal, in the early game at Marist, Puketoi host East Coast, Gladstone are at home to Greytown, and Pioneer play Martinborough.

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