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Race for third takes centre stage

Max McGilvary scoring for Greytown last time they played Martinborough. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV


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All eyes will be on Greytown and Martinborough today as the final standings in the Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup rugby competition are confirmed.

The top four are already set ahead of next weekend’s semifinals, but the final order is still to be determined.

Gladstone and Carterton will host the semis, after finishing first and second respectively, but Greytown and Martinborough will battle for third position this weekend, and supposedly an easier knockout match.

They will play each other at Greytown today, with the hosts sitting one point behind Martinborough on the standings.

Whoever wins will travel to Carterton for their semifinal, while the loser will be heading to Gladstone.

When they met earlier this season at Martinborough, Greytown produced a staggering defensive display to hold on for a 15-12 win.

They endured wave after wave of attack in the second half as Martinborough desperately searched for a match-winning try, but they were held out by some resolute defence.

Martinborough had the chance to kick a penalty at the end and secure a draw in that match, but opted to go for the try and came up short.

Martinborough were in danger of missing the play-offs until last weekend’s upset win over Gladstone, but they will arguably head into the match in a more confident frame of mind.

Their victory over Gladstone could not have come at a better time, and it was a timely reminder of what they are capable of as a team.

Nobody has ever doubted their attacking qualities, but it is their defence and mental fortitude that has been consistently put under pressure.

A backline containing Tim Priest, Tipene Haira, Nikora Ewe and Reece Calkin is always going to create scoring opportunities, but that is only half the battle.

Greytown, by contrast, will head into the match on the back of consecutive losses.

Last week’s 6-8 loss to Carterton could have gone either way, and they will want to recapture their winning momentum before heading into a sudden death match.

In today’s other matches, Gladstone should be far too strong for Masterton Red Star at Gladstone, East Coast will host Carterton, and Eketahuna will finish the regular season with a match against Marist.

Eketahuna will have to deal with a short turnaround after beating Bush Rugby Club 17-5 on Wednesday night to retain the Cowan Cup.

It will be interesting to see whether Gladstone and Carterton opt to rest some key players ahead of the knockout matches, or whether they continue to play everyone in a bid to keep their momentum going.

In the senior reserves grade, Tuhirangi are in prime position to secure top spot heading into the semifinals, but the battle for second is wide open.

Carterton and Pioneer are tied on five points after their two matches, with Puketoi sitting in fourth with two points.

Puketoi will be desperate to beat Pioneer this weekend to give themselves a chance of avoiding a semifinal trip to Tuhirangi.

Saturday draw

Premier: Eketahuna v Marist, Eketahuna at 2.35pm [Ryan Hardman]; East Coast v Carterton, Whareama at 2.35pm [Chris Jefferies]; Greytown v Martinborough, Greytown at 2.35pm [Alistair Payne]; Gladstone v Red Star, Gladstone at 2.35pm [Peter Semmens].

Senior reserves: Puketoi v Pioneer, Pongaroa at 2.30pm; Tuhirangi v Carterton, Pirinoa at 2.30pm; Pioneer OB v Marist, Pioneer at 1pm; Greytown v Featherston, Greytown at 1pm; Martinborough v Eketahuna, Martinborough at 1pm; Gladstone v East Coast, Gladstone at 1pm

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