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Semifinals shape as tight, torrid battles

 

Charles Mataitai, scoring against Carterton, has been one of the form players for Marist. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

It’s down to the last four in premier club rugby with the two top qualifiers up against teams they lost to at home in the round robin. CHRIS COGDALE previews two intriguing semifinals.

RUGBY
Marist vs Martinborough
Memorial Park No. 2, 2.35pm
[Matt Perry]

Marist know all about the defensive capabilities of Martinborough after they were beaten 22-15 in their round robin clash. In that game Marist had a huge territorial and possession advantage, but were unable to convert that into points and Martinborough capitalised on errors with three opportunist tries.

Marist captain Peter Beech expects a similar torrid battle but said his team won’t move away from their attacking philosophy.

“That’s the Marist way and we’ve got to attack because Marty are the best defensive team in the competition. We’ve either got to be getting tries or penalties, so we’ve got to put the pressure on them and make sure we get points every time we’re down their end, but they don’t seem to give them up that easy,” Beech said.

“They dig in and get in the trenches with each other. I expect a lot of aggression from them with how they run the ball, and how they defend.”

Beech said his players needed to protect the ball better.

“We can’t be throwing intercept passes, and if we knock the ball on, we can’t just throw our hands in the air, we’ve got to dive on it and kill it.”

Much of Marist’s success has come from a strong set piece, arguably the best in the province, with the scrum and lineout potent attacking weapons, as well as providing their powerful backs quality ball to run.

However, Marist are missing their main lineout jumper Tom Campbell for the match, while veteran utility forward James Goodger is doubtful with a foot injury suffered in May.

Marist have been unbeaten in the championship since the Martinborough loss, and Beech said that had been good for the team’s confidence.

“Winning is a habit, and it makes for a happy team, so everyone is enjoying being there and everyone is enjoying each other’s company so hopefully we just push on for another Saturday after this weekend.

“We’re not overly confident, because Marty are the team that tipped us up. Our first job was to get to the semifinal, and you’ve got to back yourself in these situations.”

Martinborough coach James Bruce is happy to take the underdog’s tag into the semifinal, saying that the previous win over Marist had no bearing and that it would come down to which team makes the most of their opportunities.

However, he said last weekend’s gutsy 21-17 win over East Coast in a virtual quarterfinal with an understrength team where several unheralded players had to step up was good for confidence.

Bruce believes he has the players to nullify Marist’s strengths.

“Our forwards are underrated. I’ve got no problem there. We’ve got a lot of boys who don’t mind going into dark places so I’m happy where we sit.”

Bruce feels that the likely sticky surface, after heavy rain early in the week, won’t be conducive to his light-footed backs such as Tristan Flutey, Alex Priest, and Nathan Hunt, and will suit Marist’s big ball runners such as impressive young centre Charles Mataitai, but added that his focus on his own team’s performance.

“We’ll worry about our own game and adjusting to what they have on the day and navigating our way through it rather than worrying about if they’ve got this person and that person.”

Bruce was uncertain of his final line-up but will be without hard-working No. 8 Andy Rutherford away with work.

COGGIE’S CALL:

Marist deserve to start favourites but will need to be more clinical than their round robin clash. Neither result would surprise, but the heavy ground is likely to suit Marist better, and I’ll pump for them in a close battle.

Carterton vs Gladstone
Carterton No. 1, 2.35pm
[Alistair Payne]

Carterton were handed a rugby lesson by Gladstone in their 36-24 loss in the round-robin.

In that game Carterton never really got out of first gear and were outgunned and outpassioned in most aspects of the game. Coach Neil Rodger is determined to turn the tables on their fierce rivals.

“They’re probably the toughest team to play in the semifinal, just because how they play and they’ll be everywhere, and trying to make it ugly for us, like they did last time,” said Rodger, who added that it’s important that Carterton continue to play their natural game and spread the ball wide to their dangerous outside backs Fiula Tamielau, Shaiane Daniel, veteran Inia Katia, and counterattacking fullback Aseri Waqa.

“They can turn a game in a few minutes so it’s hugely important for us that they get into the game, and I’m sure Gladstone’s aim will be to not let them into the game.

“We couldn’t put that on them last time and we’ll be looking to do that this time and we’ll see if they cope with us coming at them from everywhere.”

Carterton were without their experienced locking partnership of Lachie McFadzean and Michael Kloeg in their previous encounter, and their inclusion will sure up the set piece, which Rodger said is a massive boost.

“If we can get some decent ball, we should be okay and it’s what we do with it and we don’t want to get into a bashing fest like last time.

Gladstone were given a lift following the clearance of influential first-five Harry Eschenbach, who was sent off for a high tackle in the last gasp 21-19 win over Eketahuna last week.

Gladstone co-coach Charlie Bargh said the report from referee Chris Jefferies indicated the red card was sufficient punishment with the sending off being an accumulation of high tackles by Gladstone.

Gladstone have stuttered through the last two games since the win over Carterton, including scoring two converted tries in the final 10 minutes with 13 players, to beat winless Eketahuna 21-19 last Saturday.

“The mental attitude that that showed from us as coaches, Stan [Wright] and my point of view was pretty massive,” said Bargh.

“It’s a one-off game now and everyone should be bringing their A game to be where we should be, because the last couple of weeks have been a mental thing. We’ve got to get better, but the boys are pretty switched up for it.”

Bargh is also anticipating a sterner challenge from Carterton than their last encounter.

“They’ll be strong at the breakdown again, and they will attack everything, so our kicking has got to be on point, and we can’t give their back three any opportunities, so just trying to shut them down again with good defence.

“We know the boys have got the goods and we know we can do it, but it’s just about putting out a good performance on the field. You can’t be too confident, but I’m definitely confident in our ability to do the job that’s for sure.”

COGGIE’S CALL:

Like the other semi, neither outcome would surprise, but for the sake of avoiding getting splinters in the bum Carterton.

Hodder-Steffert Cup
Semi-Finals

Pioneer take on Greytown at Jens Street at 2.35pm in the only semifinal to be played after Eketahuna defaulted their game with East Coast because of covid-19 and other illness in the camp.
Greytown comfortably won their clash 34-22 at Greytown last weekend but will find Pioneer a trickier proposition on their home patch.

COGGIE’S CALL:
A hard game for teams to get up for, so it depends on who wants it more. Greytown narrowly.

Senior Reserves

Defending Ryan Cup champions Masterton Red Star host Marist at Colombo Road at 1pm, and Gladstone play Tuhirangi on Carterton No. 2 at 1pm.

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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