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Marist vs Carterton
Trust House Memorial Park,
3.15pm [Alistair Payne]

Marist and Carterton are hoping for dry conditions for tomorrow’s Wairarapa-Bush premier championship final so they can unleash their lethal backlines on the lightning-fast Memorial Park artificial turf.

Marist are gunning for their second championship in three years – they beat Greytown 39-37 in 2020 – and Carterton are looking for a first premier title since 2009, having fallen agonisingly short of Greytown [25-30] in last year’s decider.

Marist have the better form, having won their past five games, including a 27-22 win over Carterton two weeks ago. The Maroons have been inconsistent, suffering losses in three of their past eight games.

Marist captain Peter Beech feels his side are on the right trajectory after falling to Martinborough in the third round of the championship.

The team had a good look at themselves after that loss and have been building since with the win over Carterton, and a dominant 30-23 semifinal victory over Martinborough. However Beech felt there was still room for improvement, especially around discipline.

“A lot of it is stuff we can fix, like a couple of those penalties. I gave away a pretty silly one, and Stan [Wright] gave away another silly one. If we can eliminate those, that’s six points off the board,” Beech said.

“As long as we do the right thing and get our mixture right of when to kick and when to hold the ball if we’re not getting much possession and ride those momentum shifts, and if we get that right, we’ll be good.”

The potential for a high-scoring try-fest is on with both teams chockful of attacking talent but with very different strengths.

Marist have big runners such as imposing young centre Charles Mataitai, the experienced Mick Te Whare, who has made a big impact coming off the bench, and powerful winger Hayden Cooper. They also have the trickery of Soli Malatai, who can play anywhere from second-five to fullback.

Carterton’s big attacking threat comes from the outside back combination of veteran Inia Katia, likely to play centre, winger Fiula Tameilau, and fullback Aseri Waqa, who has scored some brilliant long-range counterattacking tries.
Regardless of their respective attacking strengths, Beech said playing on the artificial turf brought unique challenges.

“The turf is way faster and if anything, it’s quite good for those guys who were in that 2020 final.

“Even I was quite surprised how quick it was those opening 20-30 minutes, and just coming to grips with how fast it is because your lungs are just burning,” Beech said.

Most of the Carterton played on the turf in last year’s final and Rodger feels the surface will suit his fleetfooted backs.

“We’ve got a good backline and the boys have been itching to get on to the turf.

“We trained there on Wednesday and had a bit of a run to get the feel of the turf under the feet,” Rodger said.
Beech and Rodger both believe that despite the attacking threats in both teams, gaining parity in the forward exchanges will be paramount to victory.

“The team that starts the better and asserts their dominance on the game early enough should set a good platform and move forward from there,” Beech said.

The return of veteran looseforward James Goodger from injury, and Tom Campbell, who missed the semifinal, gives Marist added strength in the lineout, although Carterton also possess a strong lineout led by veteran Lachie McFadzean.

“They have a really strong lineout, but Lachie is probably similar for us with the same sort level of experience, and if you worry too much about trying to shut guys down, you go away from what we’re meant to do ourselves,” Rodger said.

“Obviously, we’ll try to disrupt lineouts, and I’m sure they will as well, and it’s something you’re aware of.”

The influence of Goodger cannot be underestimated though, and that has not been lost on Beech.

“Kick-offs, lineouts, goal kicking, he’s ‘Mr Fix It’ for most things and as long as his body has got one more 80-minute performance in it, I’ll be happy.”

There’s no doubting Marist’s depth of experience with two 40-year-olds — lock Cory Reid and loose forward Rhys Severn — likely to be playing in their last premier final, but Rodger feels Carterton also have plenty of “rugby smarts” throughout the team.

“If you look through our team, we actually have a lot of experience.

“I know they have as well, but they probably have more individuals who have lots of experience, whereas we’re quite heavy right across, but we’ve got a few young guys, and we have several guys who played in the final last year as well.”

Both teams have struggled with goal-kicking throughout the season, although Goodger’s return gives Marist
a reliable first-choice kicker.

Sam Morison, however, has had an inconsistent season for Carterton, but Rodger is backing him to step up with the pressure on.

“The good players step up in big games,” Rodger said.

“I’m confident in Sam, who had a similar year last year, and then on finals day, he kicked really well, and there’s a different feel underfoot when you kick on the turf.

“It’s nice and firm and there’s no slipping with the plant foot.”

Beech also wants to achieve another championship in his fourth final with quietly spoken coach Gerald Lologa.

“Gerald was my coach with Varsity in Palmerston North, so he’s got a lot of pedigree and finals experience.

“He doesn’t get phased that easily and he’s just a real solution focussed guy, so it’s good knowing that he’s there.

He’s a great talker to the boys before the games and what he wants to get out of the game.”

A Marist victory would be their sixth since the amalgamation of Wairarapa-Bush in 1971.

Beech believes the experience of winning in 2020 after being down by 22 points will hold the team in good stead.

“A lot of guys have been there and done that, and just coming back from such a big deficit shows that anything is possible so there’s a lot of self-belief.”

Rodger was confident Carterton could break their 13-year drought and win the club’s fifth championship since the formation of Wai-Bush.

“These one-off games are tough and the team that generally wins them are the ones that does the most with the ball,” Rodger said.

“We’re confident we can win it, absolutely we are, but I’m sure they will be too, and there’s not much in it between us. I just really hope that we put a good performance in and I’m sure we will and if we do then we’ll go really close.”
Coggie’s Call: Get the tweezers out because I’m sitting on the fence and going to enjoy the game as a neutral.

Hodder-Steffert Cup Premier Final
East Coast vs Greytown
Trust House Memorial Park,
11am [Matt Perry]

A tough game for the teams to get up for, and it depends on which wants it more. East Coast have shown the better form throughout the season and were possibly unlucky not to make the top four.
A “Coasties” victory would be just reward for a solid season.

Senior Reserves

Marist play Tuhirangi in the Ryan Cup final in the 1pm game on the artificial turf, which is expected to be a close tense battle. East Coast and Greytown-Carterton clash in the President’s Cup final on Memorial Park No. 2 at 12.30pm.

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