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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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Heavyweights on collision course

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
[email protected]

The heavyweights are on a collision course in this week’s round of Tui Cup premier rugby matches.

The top four teams will have a chance to show who the true frontrunners are for this year’s competition, while the bottom four teams will be looking to simply build some momentum.

The round kicked off last night with the bottom two teams – Eketahuna and Masterton Red Star – playing on the turf at Memorial Park in Masterton.

Today’s action includes a top-of-the-table clash between last year’s finalists, as Gladstone host Martinborough, while third-placed Carterton will travel to Greytown for what should be another entertaining match.

Gladstone are now the only unbeaten team after Martinborough’s loss to Carterton last weekend, but they should be severely tested in a rematch of last year’s Tui Cup final.

Gladstone won that match 25-12 and would have to start as favourites on their home turf.

Martinborough were outplayed by Carterton last week, but have plenty of firepower across the park to cause Gladstone some defensive headaches.

Backs Nikora Ewe and Tipene Haira have been in excellent form for Martinborough, but were well contained for the most part by a solid Carterton defensive effort last weekend.

Gladstone have had no trouble finding the try-line, and have scored more than 50 points in both of their previous two matches.

A forward pack including Andrew Smith, Andrew McLean and Eddie Cranston is always going to make its mark, and they will be aiming to provide a solid platform for Inia Katia and the rest of the Gladstone backline.

For Martinborough, it will be up to the likes of Chris Raymond and James Pakoti to stand up and make sure that does not happen.

In today’s other blockbuster, Carterton will be looking to make another statement against a Greytown side that has seemingly hit top form in recent weeks.

Depending on other results, Carterton have a chance to put themselves at the top of the points table if they can secure another win away from home.

Last week they got off to a fast start, racing to a 24-3 lead over Martinborough and managing to hold on over the closing stages as the home team looked to steal the win right at the end.

Centre Nicholas Mason has been a standout in the midfield for Carterton after arriving on the scene from England, while flanker Ethan Pinfold led from the front in last week’s determined forward effort.

Greytown outside back AJ Manley will be hoping to add to the hat-trick of tries he scored against Marist last weekend, and they will also be hoping for strong contributions from Wairarapa-Bush representatives Moo Moo Falaniko and Jaden Mason.

Today’s other match has East Coast hosting Marist, and based on recent form East Coast would have to be favourites.

The match is an important one for East Coast as they try and stay within touching distance of the top four, as they are currently six points behind Greytown.

All today’s matches kick off at 2.35pm.

Senior premier points: Gladstone 25, Martinborough 21, Carterton 21, Greytown 17, East Coast 11, Marist 5, Eketahuna 2, Masterton Red Star 0.

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