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Right royal rugby battle

Tuhirangi player-coach Tim Roberts on the attack. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

RUGBY

JAKE BELESKI
[email protected]

While Gladstone lead the way in the Wairarapa-Bush Tui Cup competition, two teams from opposite ends of the region are having a right royal battle at the top of the senior reserves standings.

The senior reserves will split into top four, middle four and bottom four this weekend, with Tuhirangi and Puketoi looking to continue their winning ways.

Both teams won 10 of their 11 matches in the round robin, and it was only an extra bonus point that gave Tuhirangi top spot with 51 points.

They played each other earlier this season on April 14, with Tuhirangi winning 47-31 at home.

Puketoi will be looking to reverse that result when they have home advantage against Tuhirangi on July 7, but both teams will first have to navigate their way past tricky opposition this weekend.

Tuhirangi will host Pioneer, while Puketoi will travel to Carterton.

Each team will play the other three teams in their section over the next three weeks before the semifinals on July 21.

Tuhirangi player-coach Tim Roberts said it had been a funny season due to the gap between the top teams and bottom teams, much like in the Tui Cup.

“There’s a big divide between the top of the competition and the bottom.

“The thing we’re struggling with is we feel like we’re not ready to play in the premier grade, but we’re also lacking a lot of competitive rugby most weeks in the reserves competition.”

Tuhirangi’s aim is to carry on as they have been and finish at the top of the points table, and then work their way through the play-offs.

For the team that wins the senior reserves grade, a promotion-relegation match against the bottom Tui Cup team awaits.

“It’s [promotion] something we’ve talked about a fair bit over the last few years, but at this stage we don’t quite feel like it’s right for a lot of the players we’ve got,” Roberts said.

“Personally, I think the only opportunity for us to go up would be if they would open it up to 10 or 12 teams.

“Looking at what’s happening with Red Star, that makes it quite obvious to us that it might not be something we’re ready for at this stage.”

Puketoi Rugby Football Club president Brett Harvey echoed that sentiment and said the possibility of promotion would be a talking point for further down the track.

“Last year we wouldn’t have, but we’ve had a bit of a change in personnel and we’d have to look at next year to see where some of the key players are going to be because it’s a big step up to the premier grade.

“The boys were very keen to get in that top four and to see how far we could get.”

He put his team’s success this season down to the depth of their squad and their attitude to training.

“The boys started training earlier than normal and were fitter.

“We’ve got about 28 players on the books and picked up a couple of young backs which really helped.”

Pioneer and Carterton will be looking to make sure neither team has to worry about the promotion decision when the time arrives.

Senior reserves draw
Top four: Carterton v Puketoi, Carterton at 1pm; Tuhirangi v Pioneer, Pirinoa at 2.30pm.

Middle four: Greytown v Pioneer OB, Greytown at 1pm; Featherston v Marist, Featherston at 1pm.

Bottom four: East Coast v Martinborough, Whareama at 1pm; Eketahuna v Gladstone, Eketahuna at 1pm.

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