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Win would lock in home semi

What do Copthorne Wairarapa-Bush need to do to make the semifinals of the Lochore Cup?

Apply the KISS principle, boys. Keep it simple, and head to Ashburton and come home with a win, and you’ll be running onto Trust House Memorial Park for a home semifinal the following Saturday.

It appears easy. It’s anything but … given the team’s troubles away from home, having failed to fire in three trips, including gifting the first wins of the championship to Horowhenua-Kapiti and Buller, and with four teams in a rapidly closing chasing pack.

A defeat on Saturday throws a completely different perspective into the equation, so let’s assess the prospects of Wai-Bush and those other teams in contention heading into the final round of games before the semis.

Firstly, the top seed for the Lochore Cup will almost certainly be East Coast [25 points] or North Otago [22], depending on the outcome of their final clashes and barring other upset results. East Coast have the harder task away at Thames Valley, while North Otago are away to West Coast, who have lost four of their last five games.

Since the current format came into place in 2011, the fewest points needed to scrape into eighth has been 17, which is Wai-Bush’s current tally. However, with only four points covering the sixth to 10th-placed teams, nothing is guaranteed.

A win with a bonus point for scoring four tries seals a home semifinal, but should Wai-Bush fail to pick up any points in Ashburton, their playoff chances could take a potentially season-ending hit, with the other four teams positioned to overtake them.

The formula for Mid Canterbury [14 points] is also straightforward, with four points for a win enough to pass Wai-Bush, but that doesn’t account for dreaded bonus points. A bonus point home town victory, with Wai-Bush bagging two bonus points, would see the pair finish equal on 19 points, but Mid Canterbury would move ahead on the who-beat-who basis.

Nineteen points, though, would probably be sufficient for Wai-Bush to lock in a semifinal, barring any major upsets further down the table, but it would almost certainly mean an away trip.

Nearest challengers West Coast [16 points] face a tricky home encounter against a strong North Otago side, who remain in the hunt for a Meads Cup semifinal and presuming they still hold top-four ambitions will be a tough nut to crack. However, West Coast could even usurp Wai-Bush with one or two losing bonus points. Should the two teams finish equal on points, West Coast would likely progress because of a superior points differential.

Poverty Bay, currently in eighth place on 15 points, face the sternest test at home in Gisborne to two-time defending Meads Cup champions South Canterbury, who are on a 28-match winning streak and are on target to complete their third straight unbeaten Heartland campaign.

The smokey could be Buller [13 points], who travel to Taupō to take on King Country and, with the momentum from wins over Wai-Bush and West Coast, could sneak into the semifinals. Should Buller finish equal on points with Wai-Bush, they also have the advantage of having won their regular season clash.

King Country [11 points] could also sneak into the playoffs with a win over Buller and other results going their way; likewise, Horowhenua-Kapiti [11 points], although they face the monumental task of toppling in-form Whanganui away.

A potential minefield lies ahead for Wai-Bush, but the easy way to avoid it would be to go out and do the business and come home with four or five points.

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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