Pua Tafa, with ball, brings a calming influence to the Marist midfield. PHOTOS/FILE
Coasties have home edge
Greytown v Carterton
Greytown, 2.35pm [Pete Semmens]
Greytown’s chances of defending the Lane Penn Trophy for the Town and Country series took a hit with their first-up 20-23 loss to Pioneer, but there’s still plenty on the line with the Grant Cup up for grabs.
The trophy holds pride of place for both clubs and is always hotly contested.
That hasn’t been lost on Greytown coach Mark Childs, who said it’s the biggest game for the team in the round-robin, and they’re making some special preparations for it.
“We’re heading out to Papawai [Marae] prior, and we’ll try to make a big thing of it for the players without getting them too overawed by it all,” Childs said.
“There always is a lot of passion, and Carterton are the same. We’ll gladly take the underdog tag and make sure the boys are up for it.”
Childs wants to have improvement from the loss to Pioneer, saying they made too many errors and bombed three tries.
“We created enough opportunities but didn’t finish, and Pioneer took their chances with their two tries, and they deserved to win. There were enough promising signs to work on.”
Childs welcomes back loose forward Rihi Brown and lock Dominic Herlihy, who missed the Pioneer game.
Carterton impressed in the first half against Marist, going out to a 29-8 halftime lead, but stuttered through the second half, not helped by a raft of substitutions, but also Marist upping their game.
The Maroons showed enough to suggest that with a solid forward pack featuring barnstorming prop Tupou Lea’aemanu, veteran lock Lachie McFadzean, and promising utility forward Logan Wakefield, and a devastating backline with finishers such as Inia Katia, Aseri Waqa, and Fiula Tameilau, they will be one of the teams to beat.
COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Greytown are mighty difficult to beat at home turf but given a hard track the dangerous Carterton backline could be hard to contain. Don’t discount how much the Grant Cup means to both teams. Tough and close, and Carterton slightly.
Marist v Pioneer
Memorial Park No 2, 2.35pm [Matt Perry]
Marist showed enough in their second-half effort of a 20-29 loss to Carterton that they will be a real force over the season.
The introduction of veteran utility forward James Goodger, and other astute replacements lifted the team effort and the Green and Whites were rewarded with two late tries.
Marist will be boosted by the return of captain and lock Peter Beech, the unpredictable Paddy Gluck at halfback or first-five, experienced midfielder Pua Tafa, and possibly promising winger Charles Fisa.
Goodger’s influence cannot be understated. He ruled the lineouts, defended manfully, and controlled play, and regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, Pioneer must quickly shut down the former NZ Heartland XV representative.
Pioneer’s experienced core of Reece Calkin, Nikora Ewe, and Shayne Harmon in the backs and impressive flanker Himiona Haira led the way in the win over Greytown.
A similar effort will be needed against a Marist side who look a more complete outfit than the one that stuttered through last season.
COGGIE’S PREDICTION: There’s always something special about a Marist-Pioneer derby; it brings the best out of both teams. Another toss of the coin, but I will sway the way of Marist.
East Coast v Gladstone
Whareama, 2.35pm [Alistair Payne]
The winner of the ‘Country’ match of the round will almost wrap up their place in the Lane Penn Trophy.
East Coast coach Aaron Matenga was happy with the first 20-7 win away to Eketahuna, nabbing a four-try bonus point in the process, that gave the team a good foundation to build on.
Making the most of their opportunities, including goalkicking, with Jack Wakeling missing all four conversion attempts last week, are areas where Matenga will want to see improvement.
Gladstone were the surprise package of the first round, running away with the game against Martinborough scoring seven tries for a 43-7 victory.
Much of the damage was done in the backline where the Eschenbach brothers Jack, Harry, Fred, and George caused havoc in the Martinborough defensive line. The departure of one or more of the brothers back to university could see a different backline take the field.
There is still ample experience in the forward pack to combat the aggressive Coasties eight, but lack of depth on the bench could be a telling factor.
COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Another tough one to call but will pump for the Coasties on their home turf.
Eketahuna v Martinborough
Eketahuna, 2.35pm [Kaleb Rowlands]
Both teams are effectively out of the running for the Lane Penn Trophy after first-round losses.
That could have their respective coaches looking at today’s game as a chance to experiment and build for the start of the premier championship in two weeks.
Eketahuna were arguably the better of these two teams last week but failed to finish their chances.
They have a solid core of experienced players in loose forwards Johan van Vliet and Sam Gammie and midfield back Robbie Anderson, but it is questionable whether they have the quality around them.
Martinborough coach James Bruce has said that the lack of depth in the squad was by far his biggest concern. That was borne out in the heavy loss to Gladstone last week, and a long season could be ahead if he cannot rectify their shortcomings.
COGGIE’S PREDICTION: It’s hard to go past Eketahuna given Martinborough’s heavy loss, but a bounce back would not surprise. Eke to inflict more pain on Marty.
Defending champions Masterton Red Star kick off the championship against Marist at Trust House Memorial Park at 2.30pm, Pioneer host Tuhirangi at Jeans St at 1pm, Greytown are at home to Carterton in the curtain-raiser to the premier game, and East Coast play Gladstone at 1pm at Whareama.