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Illness, injury ravage teams

Captain Matt Perry, on the attack for East Coast in the Lane Penn Trophy final, has been outstanding in the team’s unbeaten start to the premier championship. PHOTOS/FILE.

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
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Gladstone v East Coast, Gladstone, 2.35pm [Alistair Payne]

East Coast go to Gladstone confident of extending their unbeaten run in the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup premier championship after wrapping up the Lane Penn Trophy last weekend.

Gladstone co-coach Charlie Bargh is pleased with how his unheralded team have progressed significantly since their 38-17 loss to the Coasties in their ‘Country’ clash, although there are several areas he feels they must improve against the competition leaders.

“They attack the rucks, so we have to be better there, we lost a lot of pill there the last time we played them, but it’s an area where we’ve been improving,” Bargh said.

“Securing our own pill will go a long way, and just playing to our game plan is the big one.”

Bargh said that the Gladstone scrum was the best it’s been for several years and, along with an efficient lineout, should provide enough quality ball for the backline to use.

Gladstone are close to full strength, with the versatile Eddie Cranston back from injury and likely to step into the midfield.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: It’s hard to go past the Coasties given their run of form, but one cannot rule out Gladdy, especially at home.

Martinborough v Carterton, Martinborough, 2.35pm [Kaleb Rowlands]

Carterton coach Neil Rodger is confident his side can bounce back from their first loss of the season, a 17-15 defeat to East Coast in the Lane Penn Trophy final for the Town and Country series.

Roger said the players have quickly got over last week’s loss and were prepared for a tough clash against a confident Martinborough team, who are backing up after a superb defensive effort earned them a 22-15 win over the previously unbeaten Marist.

“They’re on a high and we’re coming off a loss so we’re looking to bounce back,” Rodger said.

“Last week we got it wrong off the field, planning-wise, and we got it wrong on the field, and we’re just looking for a lot more energy out of everybody.

“Marty like to play an open game, and we know they’ve got some big boys up front so it will be a good test.”

Carterton are close to full strength, with only hooker-flanker Tirongo Tekii being rested with a neck strain.

Martinborough coach James Bruce praised his team’s defence against Marist, at one stage spending 26 minutes camped deep in their own 22.

A similar effort might be needed to hold out a Carterton with plenty of attacking options out wide.

Carterton go into the game in joint second place on 11 points, with Martinborough fourth on nine points.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Carterton to bounce back, but it won’t be easy against a determined Martinborough, and neither result would surprise.

Pioneer v Eketahuna Jeans St, 2.35pm [Matt Perry]

Nikora Ewe’s return will strengthen the Pioneer midfield

After a promising start to the season, injuries have ravaged Pioneer, and they desperately need a win to get back into top-four contention.

Coach Victor Thompson said the team lost five players to season ending-injuries, the most serious to in-form flanker Joe Roberts, who last week underwent a shoulder reconstruction, and outside back Andre Robinson with two fractured vertebrae.

Seven other players out for up to three weeks.

Despite that, Thompson said Pioneer would still field a fairly strong side, there are no excuses, and they’re going out to win.

The experienced Nikora Ewe is back to add solidity to the midfield but his return is offset with the probable loss of injured centre Shayne Harmon. Pioneer still have two of the union’s form players – flanker Himiona Haira, who has been a menace at the breakdown, and utility back Reece Calkin, who possesses arguably the province’s best kicking game.

Haira’s battle for the loose ball with Eketahuna’s Johan van Vliet and Sam Gammie could be one of the highlights of what is expected to be a close tussle.

“They will be coming hard through the forwards as they always do, so hopefully, it’s a nice dry track for us so we can spin the ball,’ Thompson said.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Desperation time for the two bottom teams to keep alive their top four aspirations. Hard to call but Eketahuna for the upset and pick up their first win.

Marist v Greytown, Memorial Park 2, 2.35pm [Pete Semmens]

Marist are hopeful that James Goodger, with ball, is fit for today’s clash with Greytown.

Greytown coach Mark Childs is struggling to put a team together after the flu spread through the team earlier this week.

Childs said 10 players missed training on Tuesday night with the illness, and he would leave the team selection as late as possible in the hope some of them have recovered.

To compound Childs’ selection worries is the absence of former Heartland U-20 utility back Raniera Petersen, who made a promising return to the premier competition in last week’s 21-12 win over Eketahuna.

Marist captain Peter Beech is conscious of the need to bounce back after last weekend’s shock 15-22 loss to Martinborough. On that occasion, Marist spent much of the game camped hot on attack but couldn’t convert their surplus of possession into points.

“Nothing went well last week, some of us went in thinking we just had to turn up to win, and we didn’t adapt as well as Martinborough,” said Beech, who said they cannot afford another loss in their push for a top-four spot.

Beech was uncertain of the team line-up but was hopeful that veteran loose forward James Goodger has recovered sufficiently from an ankle injury to take the field.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: With illness likely depleting Greytown, Marist to take the points.

Senior reserve

Joint leaders Marist host Greytown-Carterton, fellow leaders Masterton Red Star are away to Martinborough, Pioneer take on Tuhirangi at Jeans St, and Gladstone play East Coast in the curtain-raiser at Gladstone.

All games kick-off at 1pm.

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