Bat­tle on for top spot at Ren­wick

Marlborough Express - - SPORT - PETER JONES

Top seed­ing for the forth­com­ing Marl­bor­ough di­vi­sion one rugby play-offs will likely be de­cided at the Ren­wick Do­main to­mor­row.

Moutere travel to the Green Ma­chine’s home venue sit­ting two points clear at the top of the stand­ings, with two rounds to be played be­fore semi­fi­nal time on July 15.

First round win­ners Ren­wick, like the Mag­pies, have strung three wins to­gether since the Tas­man Tro­phy phase of the sea­son ended but will find this their tough­est as­sign­ment yet.

They are ex­pected to be with­out key play­ers Chris Bolton, Kurt Schol­lum and Glen Bal­lam to­mor­row, while flanker Hay­den Mar­fell has de­cided to fur­ther his OE and will miss the re­main­der of the cam­paign. How­ever, they wel­come new prop Seb Wil­son to the Ren­wick ranks, a timely boost given their re­cent in­jury woes.

Moutere are still wait­ing to find out whether tal­is­manic loose for­ward Ver­non Fred­er­icks is re­quired by the Crusaders, with lock/loosie Matt Mc­Cormick un­avail­able this week.

Key backs Johnny Ika and Ben Finau, along with Fred­er­icks, were in ac­tion for the Tas­man Emerg­ing Play­ers side who beat their Coun­ties coun­ter­parts in Waitohi v East Coast, En­deav­our Park, M An­drell; Cen­tral v Har­lequins, Lans­downe Park, D Wood­house; Ren­wick v Moutere, Ren­wick Do­main, C Alexan­der. All games kick off at 3pm.

Moutere 51, Ren­wick 49, Waitohi 40, Cen­tral 20, East Coast 13, Har­lequins -3. Man­gere on Wed­nes­day. If Ren­wick are to have any chance of knock­ing the Mag­pies off their lofty perch they will have to close down that po­tent trio.

With three of the four semi­fi­nal spots de­cided al­ready, at­ten­tion turns to Cen­tral and East Coast, who can claim the fourth play-off po­si­tion.

Cen­tral, who meet town ri­vals Har­lequins at Lans­downe Park, sit seven points clear of the Coast­ers and a win to­mor­row will be enough to se­cure them a shot at the top qual­i­fier.

The Blues showed enough against Moutere last week, be­fore fall­ing away in the fi­nal quar­ter, that they have the po­ten­tial to be a con­tender but they must be more clin­i­cal. The in­jured Francis Roe­beck joins Adam Goldswor­thy and Braden Ste­wart on the side­lines, prompt­ing some­thing of a loose for­ward in­jury cri­sis, with coach Baz Henare look­ing to their di­vi­sion two side for a re­place­ment.

Har­lequins are still bat­tling with num­bers, and are not ex­pect­ing to have Cru­sader An­drew Makalio to call on this week, but are sure to fire up against their tra­di­tional ri­vals.

The fi­nal game sees East Coast drink­ing at the Last Chance Sa­loon.

A win to them, cou­pled with a Cen­tral loss, would give them a chance of fur­ther­ing their sea­son. How­ever they have a for­mi­da­ble Waitohi road­block in their way at Pic­ton’s En­deav­our Park.

The To­his have strug­gled to find their top form since the Tas­man Tro­phy stage ended, although they have won two of their three clashes. They have re­ceived red cards in their pre­vi­ous two encounters, forc­ing them to play short-handed for long pe­ri­ods of the game, sug­gest­ing bet­ter disci- pline will be top of the wish-list for this week­end.

The Coast­ers wel­come back mid­fielder Kaino Fu­ataga, but lose flanker Jack Mur­ray this week. They will be buoyed by their sec­ond win of the sea­son last week­end, and hope to fin­ish a tough cam­paign with a bang.

RICKY WIL­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

Ren­wick will have to keep a close eye on Moutere half­back Ben Finau if they are to win the bat­tle of the di­vi­sion one ta­ble-top­pers to­mor­row.

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