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Premier move to two rounds

The worst-kept secret in Wairarapa Bush club rugby is out.

After weeks of speculation, the union’s premier club teams are to play two full rounds in a change of format confirmed at a Council of Clubs meeting on Wednesday night.

The original format, set in place in March, would’ve seen the top six teams after the first full round go on and contest the premier championship for the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup, and the other two teams drop down and join the top two or three teams from the senior reserve grade to form a ‘premier two’ grade.

However, the potential for the promoted senior reserve teams to struggle against the demoted premier teams led the Council of Clubs to change its approach and adjust the format.

“Just the disparity between the reserve grade and premier grade would be detrimental to the game if we did [stay with the status quo],” Council of Clubs chair Tavita Isaac said, “and if we look at our results so far, all eight of the teams are competitive, and seven of those teams have had wins.”

The new format will see teams play on Kings Birthday Weekend, although the games are likely to be played under lights on Thursday or Friday night, and the playoffs have been pushed out a week, with the final now on Saturday, July 20.

The points will also be scrapped at the completion of the first round for the Lane Penn Cup on May 18 and restart for the ‘Moose’ Kapene Cup.

The Council of Clubs also confirmed that the Senior Reserve grade would split into a top and bottom division after the first full round.

“It will be a four-five split, but we’re not sure which way. We’ve got the ability to see where the teams are at,” Isaac said.

Martinborough vs Marist

Martinborough 2.35pm
[Chris Jefferies]

How Martinborough handle the big Marist forward pack could be the key to tomorrow’s fixture between the unbeaten competition leaders and third-placed Marist.

Although Marty have one of the smaller packs in the competition, they don’t take a backward step, but at times last week, the Pioneer pack made good metres up the middle, and the bigger Marist pack are likely to adopt similar tactics.

Plenty of points could be on offer, with both teams liking to spread the ball wide and use their dangerous attackers. Second-five Harry Eschenbach has been the instigator of many of Marty’s attacks, while Shane Colton and Conall Doyle are classy finishers, and veteran Tipene Haira controls play with aplomb at first-five.

Likewise, centre Charles Mataitai and winger Hayden Cooper are potential matchwinners for Marist and halfback/first-five Paddy Gluck was instrumental in their narrow win over East Coast last week.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: This has the potential to be a high-scoring, entertaining spectacle. Martinborough, but not by much.

East Coast vs Greytown

Whareama 2.35pm
[Kaleb Rowlands]

East Coast come into the game on the back of a narrow loss to Marist, while Greytown ran away for a big win over a depleted Eketāhuna.

The Coasties, as always, are proving a difficult nut to crack, especially on their home patch at Wharaema, and they’re getting back to near full strength with the return of inspirational loose forward Matt Perry a big boost.

Greytown have also started to show some good form and are building nicely into the season, with experienced campaigners like ageless loose forward Tana Isaac, veteran utility back Nick Olson, and midfielder Cyrus Baker very much to the fore.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Not much in this one, but Greytown might just get the job done.

Eketahuna vs
Masterton Red Star

Eketahuna 2.35pm
[Shay O’Gorman]

Both teams suffered heavy losses with severely weakened sides last week but should be back to near full strength.

The lack of depth on the bench hurt Eketāhuna in their loss to Greytown, while Stars had the better of Carterton in the first 15–20 minutes before the talented Carterton attackers hit their stride.

Although Eke’s strength is still their uncompromising forward pack, they have added an extra dimension with some exciting attacking talent out wide, and the Stars’ backline defence will need to step up to prevent a blowout.

Stars have been competitive against most sides, and their small forward pack has proved more than a match, but they haven’t come up against the likes of Wai Bush veterans Sam Gammie and BJ Campbell and how they handle them could prove the difference.

Coggie’s prediction: Eke should take this out, but Stars will be competitive.

Carterton vs Pioneer

Carterton 2.35pm
[Alistair Payne]

Recent form suggests that this would be all one-way traffic for Carterton.

The home side ran out comfortable winners over Masterton Red Star, while Pioneer were well beaten by Martinborough in their most recent outings.

Carterton were given a wake-up call and trailed Stars 10–0 before finally clicking into gear, and any repeat of that sluggish effort against a Pioneer side desperate to find some form could be fatal.

The ‘Maroons’, though, are arguably the most rounded team in the competition, with a solid eight and ample attacking threats in the backs, and are building steadily into the season, whereas Pioneer’s inconsistency must be a growing frustration for coach Victor Thompson.

Pioneer will welcome back influential utility back Reece Calkin for the match.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION:

It’s hard to see anything but a big win for Carterton. exciting attacking talent out wide, and the Stars’ backline defence will need to step up to prevent a blowout.

Stars have been competitive against most sides, and their small forward pack has proved more than a match, but they haven’t come up against the likes of Wai Bush veterans Sam Gammie and BJ Campbell and how they handle them could prove the difference.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION:
Eke should take this out, but Stars will be competitive.

Carterton vs Pioneer

Carterton 2.35pm
[Alistair Payne]

Recent form suggests that this would be all one-way traffic for Carterton.

The home side ran out comfortable winners over Masterton Red Star, while Pioneer were well beaten by Martinborough in their most recent outings.

Carterton were given a wake-up call and trailed Stars 10–0 before finally clicking into gear, and any repeat of that sluggish effort against a Pioneer side desperate to find some form could be fatal.

The ‘Maroons’, though, are arguably the most rounded team in the competition, with a solid eight and ample attacking threats in the backs, and are building steadily into the season, whereas Pioneer’s inconsistency must be a growing frustration for coach Victor Thompson.

Pioneer will welcome back influential utility back Reece Calkin for the match.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION:

It’s hard to see anything but a big win for Carterton.

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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