Battle on for top spot at Renwick
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.
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.