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Top four dominance in Tui Cup causes concern

Greytown’s AJ Manley scoring one of his two tries against Masterton Red Star last weekend. PHOTO/KYLIE ALEXANDER

TUI CUP RUGBY
GARY CAFFELL

Have the semifinalists for the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union’s 2018 Tui Cup premier division competition already been found?

A fair question even allowing for the fact that only four of 14 rounds of qualifying matches have been completed.

There is no hiding from the fact that it is virtually impossible to imagine the four teams setting the pace, Martinborough [20 points], Gladstone [20], Carterton [16] and Greytown [12] being displaced from the top four as the club season progresses.

They simply have such an obvious edge over East Coast [six], Marist [five], Eketahuna [two] and Masterton Red Star [0] in playing resources that it would take a Herculean effort from any of the latter four
to leapfrog them on the points table.

Sure, there might be the odd upset like East Coast’s draw with Greytown early last month but the chances of anything like that happening on a regular basis seem slim, to say the least.

The situation must, of course, be a worry to Wairarapa-Bush officials on two counts.

Firstly, spectator interest is likely to wane as results become increasingly predictable and secondly, and perhaps most importantly, there is the prospect of it reflecting poorly on Wairarapa-Bush’s performance in the Heartland Championship.

After all, most of the players in that side are almost certain to be part of the top four club teams and having a succession of “easy” club matches behind them is hardly the ideal physical or mental preparation for a Heartland campaign is it?

There is no easy answer for officialdom though. In these days where players swap clubs at a moment’s notice and without any apparent feeling for what it will mean to the club they are leaving – or for the union as a whole – it is constantly going to be a case of the higher-ranked club sides getting stronger and those at the bottom getting weaker.

The gulf between the top four and bottom four might be big now but look, say even just five years, down the track and today’s gap will be miniscule by comparison if the trends continue.

This coming weekend sees matches in the Tui Cup competition suspended because of the clash with the representative fixture between Wairarapa-Bush and Horowhenua-Kapiti at Westpac Stadium.

At stake is the PGG Wrightson Cup held by Horowhenua-Kapiti. Kick-off is scheduled for 5.05pm.

This week’s draw is: Friday: Gladstone v Eketahuna, Gladstone, 7pm; Saturday: Martinborough v Carterton, Carterton, Marist v Greytown, Memorial Park No 2, Masterton Red Star v East Coast at Memorial Park No 1. 2.35pm.

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