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Kapene Cup semifinals on the line

RUGBY

With three rounds to play before the business end of the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup, all eight teams remain in the hunt for the semifinals, although the chances of some are hanging by a thread.

Marist and Carterton have been the two form teams and look shoo-ins to host the semifinals, barring major upsets. At the other end of the scale, winless Greytown has only a mathematical chance of sneaking into the top four.

Marist, on 19 points, face Lane Penn Cup winners Martinborough at home tomorrow, followed by a tricky away trip to Eketāhuna, and finishing at home against Masterton Red Star Rams. On recent form, not many would bet against Marist winning all three, but Martinborough poses a real threat with key players returning from injury, while Eketāhuna is rarely a happy hunting ground for the “green and whites” regardless of the respective of the two sides. However, their last game against the battling Rams should secure five points and the top spot for the semis.

Carterton [17 points] have a potential banana skin game at Jeans Street tomorrow against a Pioneer side hitting their straps at the right time of the season, then a desperate Greytown at home, and finishing with an away trip to Whareama to take on East Coast. Recent form would suggest three wins for the two-time defending champions, but the two away games could be difficult against teams chasing their own ambitions, while little love is lost when Greytown come to town. It’s hard to see Carterton beaten, though, and they should lock in home advantage.

Apart from Carterton at Jeans Street tomorrow, Pioneer [12 points] have – on the face of it – a good run-in. The downside is that those two encounters are away, firstly against East Coast in their “local derby”, which is usually anything but an easy assignment and finally in Greytown, and the outcome of that could depend on whether the home side’s semifinal prospects are still alive. Two wins would definitely secure a semifinal, although one win could be enough.

Martinborough [11 points], once through tomorrow’s battle with Marist, wrap up the round-robin with home fixtures against the Rams and Eketāhuna. On the assumption that they come away from Marist empty-handed or with losing bonus points, that would make the clash with the Rams, who pushed them hard in the first round, a must-win game and set up a virtual quarterfinal against Eketāhuna. Marty showed in winning the Lane Penn Cup they have the talent to be major contenders and, with key players back, should do enough to make the four.

Eketāhuna [10 points] will be targeting five points from tomorrow’s clash with the Rams to position them well going into a tough finish. Marist can expect a typical bruising encounter when they visit the union’s northernmost club, before Eke travels to Martinborough for what could be a ding-dong battle for a semifinal spot. Never write off Eketāhuna, but they could need two wins to book a place in the semifinals.

The injury-hit East Coast [eight points] kick off their last three matches away to Greytown, a venue where they traditionally struggle.

The Coasties are then at their Whareama home to take on Pioneer in what could determine both teams’ fates before finishing against Carterton. Two wins are a must if the Coasties are to make the top four, and that remains a realistic prospect, although it’s difficult to see them doing enough to make the cut.

The best chance Masterton Red Star [five points] have of picking up a second win of the season could be against Eketāhuna tomorrow.

After that, away games against Martinborough and Marist await the Rams.

Although the young side have shown some encouraging signs, it’s difficult to see the Rams picking up the two wins needed to be in with a chance. One win could be enough to make the fifth-sixth Hodder-Steffert Cup, and that would be an achievement in their first season back in premiers.

Greytown, on one point, would need three wins and other results to go their way to sneak into the top four but never count out the proud club.

A win over East Coast tomorrow would kickstart a late charge, but next up is Carterton away, and a massive form reversal would be needed to give Greytown a sniff going into the final game at home to Pioneer.

Two wins are probably the best Greytown could hope for, and that probably won’t be enough to play finals rugby.

Marist vs Martinborough
Marist, 2.35pm [Shay O’Gorman]

The return of exciting fullback Shane Colton and second-five Harry Eschenbach is a big boost for Martinborough; however, coach James Bruce intends to attack the competition leaders in the forwards, saying, “If we can just get under them and keep going like country boys do, we’ll have them.”

The outcome could be decided in the backlines, though, with both teams favouring attacking rugby.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION:

Marist to take out a high scoring entertaining fixture.

Masterton Red Star vs Eketāhuna
Colombo Road, 2.35pm
[Andrew Stringer]

The Rams should target this as a second win of the season, given that they were possibly unlucky not to win their first-round encounter. Likewise, Eketāhuna will be lining up a victory, and probably with a bonus point.

The Rams will be competitive, as they have been in most matches, but they lack that x-factor in the backline, whereas Eke have added some useful attacking threats out wide to complement their hard-working forwards.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION:

Eketāhuna’s experience might just prove the difference. Greytown vs East Coast
Greytown, 2.35pm
[Kaleb Rowlands]

How much has last weekend’s 79-14 drubbing to Marist knocked the Coasties’ spirits? That could be the big question going into tomorrow’s clash, but coach Guy Williams is sure to have reminded the players it was a one-off, and the team is still in the championship hunt.

Greytown came close to breaking their duck in Eketāhuna last week, and a win would revive their slim mathematical chances.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION:

Greytown to get the points, but only just.

Pioneer vs Carterton
Jeans Street, 2.35pm
[Alistair Payne]

Carterton will go in as the warmest of favourites to notch the third win of the championship, but they face a Pioneer side starting to hit their straps. The likes of loose forwards Jonte Miller and Himiona Haira have been in top form, and the exciting backline has run in some scintillating tries in recent games.

Carterton should have the edge in the set piece, and they have plenty of attacking threats in the back.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION:

Another high-scoring game, with Carterton taking the chocolates.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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