Rival captains and workmates – Daryl Pickering [Carterton] left, and Tavita Isaac [Greytown] – with the Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV
Chris ‘Moose’ Kapene Memorial Cup Final: Greytown v Carterton, Memorial Park, 3.15pm – Preview by CHRIS COGDALE
Rodger leaning on consistency
Carterton coach Neil Rodger is fortunate he can field close to the same team for the sixth consecutive week.
“We’ve been very lucky, and there have only been a few small changes here and there,” he said ahead of tomorrow’s final against Greytown.
“It helps with continuity, and I know some of the boys on the bench desperately want to start, but it gives them some clarity around what they need to do when they come off the bench.”
That consistency resulted in an unbeaten run of five games since the Maroons lost 25-41 to Greytown in the second round of the championship.
“We are not looking at anything in particular [for the final] — it’s just maintaining our standards and taking another step forward, and if we can do that, we’ll go close.”
Much of Carterton’s success has come from out wide through exciting wingers Fiula Tameilau, Asari Waqa, centre Aisea Sakopo, and veteran fullback Inia Katia. Rodger said all were itching to test their skills on the hard, fast Memorial Park artificial turf.
“I was ecstatic with how they played in the wet last Saturday.
“For us, it’s taking our opportunities when they come up, and it’s hard with some of these young fellas because they want to score a try every time they touch the ball.
“We don’t need to do that, but we do need to nail the ones that do come up.”
However, Rodger said a lot of the credit for their late-season form should go to their underrated forward pack.
“Our pack has just got better and better, and our forwards who come off the bench make a massive impact. We’re very lucky we’ve got a group of guys who are probably starting players, but we just can’t fit them in.”
Rodger is confident his players will go out there and do the business
“We’ve earned the right to be there and to give it a crack, and we’re not defending 12 straight wins.”
Unbeaten record on the line
Victory for Greytown would complete a rare unbeaten season.
Records are incomplete, but it is believed that Eketahuna were the last team to go unbeaten during the hat-trick of championship titles from 2003-5, and Masterton Red Star achieved the feat in 2000.
Second-year coach Mark Childs is confident that he and assistant coach Paul Pottinger have prepared Greytown the best they can for the decider.
“We know they’re ready. Training on Tuesday was good, and you don’t need to motivate them for a final.
But it will be the team that executes the best on the day and goes the 80 minutes,” Childs said.
Greytown were to have a final hitout on the Memorial Park turf on Thursday night to get players used to the surface.
Veteran lock Jeremy Cook will miss the final with a calf injury, and captain Tavita Isaac is a 50-50 proposition with a decision on his participation to be left as late as possible.
Greytown have ample depth to call on to cover Isaac’s absence, a factor that was behind the team’s successful streak, Childs said.
“The beauty of this side is we have a strong bench. We have used 27 players this season, and it takes that many to win a championship.”
One of the major influences has been the return of former All Black Zac Guildford to his boyhood club.
“He’s been huge,” said Childs, “he’s been very consistent, and you can see why he was an All Black, just with his consistency in training, his consistency in performance, and he demands high standards, which has really lifted the whole team.”
Greytown beat Carterton 32-21 and 41-25 this season but Childs expects them to be much-improved in the final.
“We know what they’ve got. They have some good ball-runners in the forwards. We don’t expect them to play sevens rugby, but we do expect them to use the ball.”
COGGIE’S PREDICTION: Carterton’s last championship win was in 2010, and their last final appearance was a 2018 defeat to Gladstone. Greytown won four titles last decade and have the disappointment of last year’s loss fresh in their minds. Greytown have the form on the board, while Carterton have been the big improvers in the latter part of the season. A great game to be a neutral. For the sake of picking a winner – Greytown – but don’t be surprised if Carterton take the spoils.