Inia Katia on the attack the last time Gladstone played Carterton. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
A top-of-the-table clash will highlight round nine of Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup premier rugby action.
Gladstone will once again put their unbeaten record on the line when they host Carterton today.
The competition frontrunners have won all eight of their matches to date and have an eight-point buffer at the top of the standings.
Carterton come into the match in a patch of good form after impressive wins over East Coast and Eketahuna, but they will be aware that a loss could see them drop to fourth, depending on other results.
Gladstone were pushed to the brink by Marist last weekend, eventually escaping with a 41-36 win.
The forward packs should be fairly evenly matched, and it could come down to which backline makes the most of their opportunities.
Gladstone will look to experienced backs Inia Katia and Cameron Hayton to lead from the front, while playmakers Brad Griffith and Jeremy Osborne have been in good form throughout the season.
Carterton will be hoping their forward pack – which includes Wairarapa-Bush representatives Connor Baker, Conan Gray and Lachlan McFadzean – can provide enough quality ball for the likes of Isaac Bracewell and Daryl Pickering to work their magic in the backline.
The other matches will involve three heavy favourites looking to continue their winning ways against teams struggling to make an impact this season.
Marist will take on Masterton Red Star on the Memorial Park turf, and will be keen to build on last week’s impressive performance against Gladstone.
Red Star are still searching for their first win of the campaign, but last week’s competitive first half performance against Martinborough was enough to suggest they could knock one of the other teams over before the season ends.
Eketahuna will travel to Greytown in search of their second win, while the hosts will be trying to keep the pressure on Gladstone and Carterton at the top of the table.
The final match has East Coast taking on Martinborough, and the men from South Wairarapa will be confident of banking an important five points from this match.
Premier draw [all games 2.35pm today]: Gladstone v Carterton at Gladstone; Marist v Masterton Red Star at Memorial Park No 1; Greytown v Eketahuna at Greytown; East Coast v Martinborough at Whareama.