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Race to the semifinals heating up

Epeli Rayaqayaqa has been a dangerous impact player for East Coast.

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Marist vs East Coast

Memorial Park No. 2, 2.35pm

[Alistair Payne]

Marist, on 21 points, have almost locked in a semifinal spot in the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup, and a win tomorrow would not only confirm that but also secure home advantage.

An East Coast victory would keep alive their top aspirations, while a loss with one or two bonus points would also keep them in the hunt.

The Coasties didn’t help their chances last week when Pioneer scored a converted try on fulltime to scramble a draw, and coach Aaron Matenga is expecting his team to bounce back tomorrow.

“I’m pretty confident the way the boys trained on Tuesday,” said Matenga.

“They knew where they went wrong on Saturday and they’re up for it and I think they’re ready for it.”

Matenga said retaining the ball and denying Marist set piece opportunities will be the key to success.

“Holding on to the pill is going to win the game, and if we can maintain that better and play an up-tempo sort of game, we’ll hopefully be right.”

East Coast will field their strongest team since beating Carterton in the Lane Penn Trophy final three weeks ago, with the return of two of their most powerful ball runners lock Jack Goddard and prop Josh Prentice.

Marist showed their attacking prowess in big wins over the struggling Greytown and Eketahuna in the last two rounds but will find the Coasties’ abrasive in your face style of play a more difficult proposition, as Martinborough showed in their upset win three weeks ago.

Marist’s strength is in the set piece, with their scrum and lineout arguably the best in the province. If East Coast can nullify the scrum and get their share of lineout, a red and white win could be on the cards.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Marist could find the Coasties’ hustle and bustle hard to handle. East Coast by a narrow margin

Lachie McFadzean returns to add much needed steel to the Carterton forward pack. PHOTOS/FILE

Pioneer vs Carterton

Jeans Street 2.35pm [Matt Perry]

Carterton coach Neil Rodger admits there has been a fair bit of soul searching since last week’s disappointing 36-24 loss to Gladstone, and he’s demanding a more committed effort in their difficult away game against a desperate Pioneer.

“We need to show a whole lot more energy,” Rodger said.

“I thought we were lazy last week, and it showed, we just didn’t fire a shot.”

The focus this week for Rodger is on individual effort and then try to pull that together collectively, and he will be making changes to the game day squad.

One of those is the likely return of veteran lock Lachie McFadzean to add more grunt to the forward pack, who were outplayed by Gladstone.

Carterton though will be without inspirational leader and halfback Daryl Pickering, out with a shoulder injury.

Rodger said tomorrow’s game is not do-or-die but it’s getting close, and his team need to turn on a strong performance in front of a passionate Pioneer crowd.

“We’ve played there plenty of times and we know what we’re going to get, but we’ve just got to focus on us and what we need to do.”

Pioneer again showed their fighting qualities scoring a late try to secure a draw away to East Coast and cannot be underestimated. Carterton found Pioneer hard to put away in their previous encounter, and a similar battle is likely.

A Carterton win would strengthen their top four claims, while Pioneer must win to keep alive their prospects.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: A close tussle with Carterton to take the chocolates, but a Pioneer win would not surprise.

Gladstone vs Greytown

Gladstone 2.35pm

[Graeme Reisima]

Gladstone highlighted their championship credentials with a commanding 36-24 win over Carterton last weekend, and a 27-19 defeat of the highly touted East Coast the previous weekend.

On the face of it, tomorrow’s home game against the defending champions should be a comfortable victory, but there is too much pride in the Greytown team, who would love nothing more than to be the spoilers.

A Gladstone win would have them well-placed to push for a home semifinal in the last round clash away to Eketahuna. A Greytown victory would give them confidence heading into the bottom four Hodder-Steffert Cup playoffs.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Gladstone to come away with a bonus-point victory.

Martinborough vs Eketahuna

Martinborough 2.35pm

[Pete Semmens]

A victory over winless Eketahuna is a must for Martinborough if they are to keep alive their semifinal chances.

A win with a four-try bonus point would lift Marty to 18 points and line them up for potential winner takes all clash away to East Coast in the final round.

Numbers have been an ongoing problem for Martinborough coach James Bruce, but he is confident the outlook is brighter heading into the business end of the season.

Eketahuna have been the hardest hit with a lack of players a major concern for the province’s most northern club. The loss of inspirational midfielder Robbie Anderson to an AC injury has only added to the club’s woes.

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Martinborough will have too much pace out wide and win with a bonus point.

SENIOR RESERVES

Leaders Marist take on East Coast in the early game on Memorial Park No. 2, Pioneer play Masterton Red Star at Jeans Street, Gladstone are at home to Greytown-Carterton, and Martinborough take on Tuhirangi in the southern derby at Martinborough. All games kick off at 1pm.

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