Michael Te Whare in action for Greytown against Marist last weekend. PHOTO/KYLIE ALEXANDER
As the end of the regular season approaches, the margin for error is getting smaller each week for some teams in the Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup rugby competition.
The penultimate round of matches will be played today, and there are still plenty of variables that need to be worked out over the next two weekends.
Gladstone are guaranteed to finish in top position after getting to this point without losing a game, while Carterton and Greytown are also assured of a spot in the semifinals.
The final spot in the top four will be claimed by either Martinborough or Marist, but we may not know which one until next weekend.
Martinborough sit on 38 points, with Marist on 30, but Marist have undoubtedly the easier draw over the next two weeks.
This weekend they will play East Coast at Memorial Park, and then next week they travel to Eketahuna.
Martinborough, in contrast, will host Gladstone this weekend, and will finish the regular season with a trip to Greytown.
If Martinborough and Marist finish with the same number of points, Martinborough will advance to the semifinals courtesy of the tie-breaker system.
The first tie-breaker is the highest number of wins in results in matches played between the two teams in the season, which is tied at one apiece, followed by the points for and against differential between the teams during the season, and Martinborough have a big advantage in that regard.
The equation is simple for Martinborough – get at least two points from their matches over the next two weeks to book a spot in the top four.
If they fail to do that, they will leave the door open for Marist to sneak in at the last moment.
Carterton and Greytown will meet in what could be the match of the round today, with Carterton looking to secure a home semifinal with a win.
They showed they were hitting top form at the right end of the season in last week’s win over Martinborough and will be looking to run with that momentum towards the play-offs.
Greytown can stay in the hunt for a home semifinal if they can bounce back from last week’s disappointing 13-23 loss to Marist.
Gladstone will start as warm favourites when they travel to Martinborough, but they will be facing a side desperate to get their season back on track.
Martinborough will know that missing out on the semifinals would be a tragedy with the amount of talent they possess, and they will throw everything at Gladstone to try and take the pressure off their final regular season match against Greytown.
In today’s other matches, Marist should be too strong for East Coast, while Eketahuna will not want to hand Masterton Red Star their first win of the season when they meet at Colombo Rd.
Premier: Masterton Red Star v Eketahuna, Colombo Rd at 2.35pm [Atene Karauria]; Marist v East Coast, Memorial Park No 2 at 2.35pm [Rebecca Mahoney]; Carterton v Greytown, Carterton at 2.35pm [Chris Jefferies]; Martinborough v Gladstone, Martinborough at 2.35pm [Alistair Payne].
Senior reserves: Puketoi v Tuhirangi, Pongaroa at 2.30pm; Pioneer v Carterton, Pioneer at 2.30pm; Pioneer OB v Featherston, Pioneer at 1pm; Marist v Greytown, Memorial Park No 2 at 1pm; Martinborough v Gladstone, Martinborough at 1pm; Eketahuna v East Coast, Eketahuna at 1pm.
Wellington Premier First XV: Wairarapa College v Porirua, Wairarapa College at 3.45pm.