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Teams seek to play smart

Ryan Knell [with ball] has been ruled out for Gladstone with concussion. PHOTO/FILE

The semifinal prospects of six of the eight teams go on the line in the penultimate round in the premier club rugby championship. CHRIS COGDALE previews tomorrow’s Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup games.

Carterton v Pioneer, Carterton, 2.35pm [Chris Jefferies].

The game of the round with plenty riding on the outcome.

A win to either side will almost lock in a semifinal, whereas a loss will mean a nervous last round clash.

Pioneer have the harder route with runaway leaders Greytown to play on the final week, and Carterton will face Marist away.

Pioneer didn’t help their chances with a 22-38 loss to East Coast last week, with poor discipline, including two yellow cards in the final 15 minutes letting the side down.

“We want to move on from that,” coach Koti Whittaker said, “there were calls that didn’t go our way which added to the frustration, and some of the guys started turning towards each other, but we’ve got to be better than that.”

Carterton comfortably won their first-round clash 59-30, but Whittaker said Pioneer are better prepared this time.

“They’re definitely beatable, but they are on a roll at the moment. We must work harder, be smarter, and we have to be on our A game.

“Attack them up the middle because I know our forward pack is quite strong. I reckon we had a slight advantage over them in the first game, but on the transition at turnovers, their backs destroyed us.

“We want play what’s in front of us, but everyone has to be on the same page.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Carterton will have too much firepower in the backs. A bonus-point victory for the home side.

Eketahuna v Martinborough, Eketahuna, 2.35pm [Pete Semmens].

Frankie Bryant [with ball] is a big loss for Eketahuna with a hamstring injury.
Injuries continue to haunt Eketahuna with flanker and co-captain Johan van Vliet, and backs Matt Raleigh, Frankie Bryant, and possibly Anthony Rowden absent for today’s must-win game.

The injury-hit team kept their semifinal prospects alive with a brave 31-22 victory over Marist last Saturday, and coach Craig Pepperell said that the team took a lot of confidence and belief from that result.

But they would need to step up each week to make the semifinals.

“We just need to continue to back ourselves and our game plan [that we train], play smart in regards to game management on what we do in specific areas of the park,” he said.

“With so many injuries, we need to manage our players in the same way.

“But in saying that, the team feel good and we will continue to play with a positive mindset as we did against Marist.”

Pepperell is ignoring Martinborough’s poor form of five consecutive losses and expects the visitors to bring plenty of intensity.

“Like us they have had injuries, and they have only missed out on winning some games by a point or two. They will be desperate like us for the win so it won’t be easy.

“We are not looking too far ahead, we can’t afford to do that, and it’s game by game. If we drop a game now, our semifinal hopes are gone.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Mud is often the big leveller, but in this case, it plays into Eke’s hands and should suit their aggressive forward pack. The home side in a low-scoring grind in the mud.

East Coast v Marist, Whareama, 2.35pm [Alistair Payne].

East Coast coach Aaron Matenga won’t know until before kickoff who he can put on the field for their final home game of the round-robin.

As many as 11 first team players were ruled out of last Saturday’s game against Pioneer.

Matenga said it had been a hard couple of weeks, and he would wait until today to see how the injured players are and their availability.

Given the lengthy injured list, the 38-22 win over Pioneer was even more commendable, and Matenga said it will enhance the squad’s confidence.

“It has also given them a chance and self-belief, and I know we haven’t seen the best of this squad yet,” he said.

Both teams will probably need two wins from the final two rounds to make the top four, and Matenga expects a hard, physical encounter.

“Marist is a good side and are coached well. They will come with a plan, and hopefully, the same plan I assume they will do. We have to play smart and be accurate in what we do.”

Matenga also wants a strong effort to reward their loyal fans with a home victory.

“The forecast for Saturday is for good weather, and as this is our last home game this round and with the Olson Cup up, it’s time we put together a good all-round performance for our hard-core loyal supporters and sponsors.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Marist will likely dominate the set pieces, but the Coasties will be a handful in open play. The Coasties never give up, whereas Marist have crumbled under pressure to Pioneer and Eketahuna. East Coast in a tight tussle.

Greytown v Gladstone, Greytown, 2.35pm [Matt Perry].

Gladstone coach Steve Thompson is another compiling a growing injury list, with flanker Ryan Knell and winger Nathan Chaney ruled out of today’s match with concussion.

Thompson said the situation was getting worse every week. They’re down to the bare 15, and they won’t be able to call up players from the senior reserves, who are playing Tuhirangi at Pirinoa.

That is likely to have Thompson adopt a conservative approach against the unbeaten frontrunners.

“We are likely to play more in the forwards and then use our backs secondary,” he said.

“But Greytown are on a roll and appear to be improving each week, so it won’t be easy.”

COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Greytown’s superb form and Gladstone’s injury crisis points to a big Greytown win.

SENIOR RESERVES

The Marist senior reserve team have been suspended for today’s round after last Saturday’s game with Masterton Red Star was abandoned 16 minutes early.

Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union chief executive Tony Hargood said referee Matt Perry determined it was appropriate to abandon the game for repeated infringements.

Masterton Red Star were leading 44-5 at the time.

He said the judicial panel agreed with the referee’s decision to call the game off early and suspended Marist for one week, with Masterton Red Star to receive a reprimand letter.

That means Carterton win by default from Marist.

In games that will go ahead today, East Coast are at home to Pioneer, Greytown host Puketoi, Martinborough play Masterton Red Star at 1pm, and Tuhirangi take on Gladstone at Pirinoa.

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