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Hometown semis down to wire

Tevita Isaac scoring against Marist last weekend. PHOTO/KYLIE EVANS

Martinborough, Gladstone, and Greytown fight for semifinal home advantage. Times-Age sportswriter CHRIS COGDALE previews the penultimate round of Tui Cup rugby.

Marist v Martinborough, Memorial Park No 2, 2.35pm. [Referee: Alistair Payne]

It’s the last chance saloon for Marist in their quest to make the semifinals in the Tui Cup.

But even if they beat Martinborough, it probably still won’t be enough to break into the top four.

Marist, on 21 points, need a maximum five points from each of their last two games – against Martinborough tomorrow and Gladstone next weekend – and hope that Eketahuna [29 points], who play East Coast and Carterton, pick up no more than two points.

Compounding the task facing Marist is the fact they come up against an in-form Martinborough side who are in prime position to nab a home semifinal.

A bonus point victory for Martinborough would guarantee one of the semifinals will be played in the wine town.

A loss, though, and Martinborough will go into their bye weekend with their home semifinal fortunes in the hands of other teams.

Martinborough have really hit their straps over the past fortnight with a last minute 27-25 win over Gladstone and a clinical 39-7 defeat of Carterton last Saturday.

Marist continue to drift in and out of games and that was no more evident than in their 41-30 loss to Greytown last Saturday. They switched off for long periods to concede a big lead and then showed glimpses of brilliance to score three late tries.

Martinborough won their first-round clash 34-25.

Coggie’s prediction:

Martinborough to end Marist’s misery with a bonus point win.

Gladstone v Greytown, Gladstone 2.35pm. [Chris Jefferies]

Home advantage is on the line in this clash between the second- and third-placed teams.

The calculation is simple. Gladstone, on 38 points, get the home semi if they win.

If Greytown [36 points] win, the race for home advantage will go to the final week of round-robin next Saturday.

Greytown were very good in beating Marist 41-30 last weekend, scoring seven tries in a match that was more one-sided than the score would indicate.

Their abrasive forward pack were impressive at scrum and lineout time and, led by loose forwards Tevita and Tana Isaac, dominated the breakdown.

The backline also showed when they get quality ball, they have excellent finishers in wingers Taylor Fenwick and Moo Moo Falaniko, and utility back Teihana Brown who impressed at fullback last Saturday.

Gladstone come into today’s match on the back of a confident 43-6 demolition of Eketahuna.

Like today’s opponents, Gladstone’s big names are starting to stand up at the pointy end of the season. Last year’s Club Player of the Year, Inia Katia, was at his electric best last Saturday.

In the pack, veteran locks Andrew McLean and Andrew Smith, abrasive loose forward Ryan Knell, and the versatile front-rower Richard Puddy, are showing all their years of experience.

In the first-round encounter Gladstone came back with a late try to win 26-25.

Coggie’s prediction:

Tempted to sit on the fence and get splinters. But I liked the way Greytown went last weekend. Greytown in a tight tense battle.

Eketahuna v East Coast, Eketahuna, 2.35pm. [Mike Wakefield]

Since winning the Moose Kapene Cup for first-round bragging rights, Eketahuna have won only one game, 13-10 over Greytown on May 25.

More worrying is that they come into this game in losing form, having dropped their last three matches, including a demoralising 43-6 loss to Gladstone last weekend.

The Eketahuna pack have rarely been bettered, but the backline is a different story.

The absence of captain and midfielder Robbie Anderson [broken thumb] has left a big hole on defence – a weakness that opposition backlines have been quick to expose.

East Coast have promised much but failed to deliver. Their only win has been over the inconsistent Marist.

If the Coasties can gain a fair share of possession, they certainly have the pace out wide to challenge the stuttering Eke defence.

Coggie’s prediction:

The first-round fixture went the way of Eketahuna 24-17. A similar result again.

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