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Six in running for semis

RUGBY

Six teams remain in contention for the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup semifinals. CHRIS COGDALE looks at the permutations and the prospects of each team making the top four.

Martinborough – 24 points

The current leaders have arguably the trickiest run home, with an away encounter against a wounded Carterton, who suffered their first loss of the championship to old rivals Greytown last Saturday.

They then finish with the southern derby at home against a resurgent and experienced Greytown side, who know how to peak at the right time of the season.

Marty’s top-four place looks assured, but coach James Bruce knows the importance of having home advantage for the semifinals and took the chance to rest some key players and give fringe players a run in the win over the struggling Gladstone last Saturday.

A win in either of their two last games should lock in a semifinal, but two losses could see the ‘green and blacks’ having to travel for their semifinal.

Pros for Marty are their outstanding backline, marshalled by former Super Rugby player Robbie Robinson, and with excellent finishers in veteran Nathan Hunt and exciting prospect Conall Doyle, and their hardworking loose forward trio of Jared Hawkins, Jake Goodger, and Tiawharangi Aranui.

Cons – the likelihood of wet, heavy grounds to suppress their attacking prowess.

Predicted finish –
a home semifinal

Carterton – 23 points

The defending champions should secure a home semifinal with one win from their final two games, starting at home tomorrow against leaders Martinborough.

Even if Carterton slip up in that game, a last-round clash away to Gladstone should hold no fears, with their bitter rivals battling at times to field a full squad.

Like Martinborough, Carterton have plenty of game-breakers in brilliant attackers such as fullback Aseri Waqa and winger Fiula Tameilau, and the cool head of captain Daryl Pickering to steady the ship at halfback and an in-form goalkicker Ben Brooking.

Big prop Tupou Lea’aemanu is a continual threat with the ball in hand and is a prolific try scorer, while Logan Wakefield, whether at lock or loose forward, is a main source of lineout ball and is hardworking in general play.

Predicted finish –
a home semi

Greytown – 19 points

Write off Greytown at your peril. They have too many players who know how to lift their game at the business end of the season – five titles in the past 11 years is a testament to that.

Hardnosed brothers Tana and Tavita Isaac in the forwards and versatile back Nick Olson have been there for most of those championships. Throw former Hurricane Andre Taylor into the backline mix and the return of the skilful ball-running prop Lewis Bush, and there has to be confidence in Greytown that they can upset more favoured contenders.

A win with a four-try bonus point over the hapless Gladstone tomorrow would go a long way to grabbing a semifinal spot, but they also might need to win their last fixture over Martinborough, with nearest challengers Marist and Pioneer having arguably the easiest runs home.

Their fate is in their own hands, and although they should account for Gladstone, tipping over bitter rivals Martinborough could be a stretch too far, but even a losing bonus point could prove valuable.

Predicted finish –
just to sneak into the semis

Marist – 18 points

Two losses in their last two games have left Marist needing to win their last two round-robin games to be assured of a top-four spot.

On the face of it, that would seem a shoo-in against two of the battlers East Coast and winless Eketahuna away, but their form of recent has been confounding.

At times in the losses to Carterton [20-15] and Pioneer [21-19], Marist have played some outstanding rugby, but too often, they are let down by some dumb rugby, whether it’s trying to run the ball out from deep in their own half in conditions not conducive to running rugby, or poor kicking giving the opposition too much time and space, and at times a lack of discipline.

There is the backline talent in promising winger Hayden Cooper, the experienced Tafa Tafa, and exciting centre Charles Mataitai, as well as a strong forward pack, especially at scrum time where young props Stan Wright Jnr and Sam Siaosi provide a solid platform.

The biggest test is likely to be against the Coasties, who still harbour semifinal ambitions, but tipping over an Eketahuna team playing to avoid a possible relegation match won’t be easy in the mud at Eke.

Predicted finish – should do enough to make the top four.

Pioneer – 16 points

Pioneer almost certainly need two wins, and possibly with bonus points, and with clashes against Eketahuna at home tomorrow and away to East Coast next weekend, that is a probability.

After impressing in making the Lane Penn Trophy final, Pioneer have been in and out with some strong performances balanced by some below-par efforts.

There are classy players such as hard-charging loose forward Himiona Haira, the underrated Reece Calkin, and in-form centre Nikora Ewe to test most opposition.

A win over Eketahuna is likely, especially with the 30th-anniversary reunion of their 1993 championship-winning side being held at the clubrooms tomorrow, but an away trip to face the cousins at East Coast is a tough finish.

The big problem for Pioneer is that their destiny is out of their hands, with other results needing to go their way.

Predicted finish – fifth
East Coast – 13 points

The Coasties must upset Marist away tomorrow, and Pioneer at Whareama next Saturday, probably both with bonus points and then hope other results go their way to sneak into a semifinal.

It’s hard to see that happening with coach Ritchie Robertson bemoaning the lack of commitment from players with a severe lack of numbers turning up for trainings.

Predicted finish – sixth

GLADSTONE, on eight points, and EKETAHUNA, on five points, are playing to avoid a possible promotion-relegation game, but on recent form, it’s hard to see the current positions changing,

In tomorrow’s Senior Reserve games, Masterton Red Star play Pioneer in the curtain-raiser at Jean St, Carterton are at home to East Coast, Gladstone play Greytown and leaders Tuhirangi shot Martinborough in the southern derby.

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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