Make or break weekend for clubs
The stage is set for a thrilling final round of qualifying matches in the 2018 Tasman Tanning Wanganui premier and senior club competitions on Saturday with the top two teams in each grade matched against each other.
Black Bull Liquor Pirates premiers (50 pts) play defending champions McCarthy Transport Ruapehu (46) in Ohakune and Kelso Hunterville seniors (19) meet Marist Celtic (15) at Spriggens Park.
Toss in new Grand Hotel Challenge Shield holders Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist (42) defending the premier trophy against Byford’s Readimix Taihape (43) at Spriggens Park, and fifthplaced Border (41 pts) needing an away win over Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri (10) to have a chance of qualifying and it is a make or break weekend for five premier clubs.
In the senior grade the four semifinalists — Hunterville, Celtic, Border and Speirs Food Marton (10 pts each and meeting each other in Waverley) are already decided — with the game results deciding who plays who on July 14. Although they cannot qualify, Counties (4 pts), who took the Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield off Border 23-11 last weekend, and winless Taihape (no points) clash at Memorial Park to decide who holds the trophy for 2018.
In the senior consolation competition Seales Winslow Pirates (14 pts but with a bye on Saturday) and Kaierau (13) are already assured of hosting semifinals. Third-placed Utiku OB (7) is home to Kaierau in the final qualifying round and winless Ruapehu hosts Pirates (6 pts)
Top Premiers Meet
With both teams assured of semifinal starts, Ruapehu and Pirates will be playing for the honour of emerging the top premier qualifiers. They clash at Ohakune with Ruapehu trailing Pirates by 4 pts after being taken apart 28-8 by Marist last weekend and Pirates comfortably disposing of Ngamatapouri 62-26 at Spriggens Park.
In their first round clash this season, on Spriggens Park, Pirates edged out Ruapehu 12-10, scoring two tries to one. The clubs have met twice in combined championship finals at Spriggens Park with Ruapehu winning 16-13 in 2013 and Pirates turning the tables 23-17 the following year — the first time the city siders had won the union-wide competition, which started in 1978, and the club’s first major championship honour since 1958.
Ruapehu has beaten Pirates 18-15 in 2017 and 34-20 in 2016 but lost 31-6 in 2015 and 17-16 in 2014 in the last four qualifying round clashes between the clubs in Ohakune.
This season Ruapehu is well clear of Pirates in scoring statistics after 13 of 14 qualifying fixtures, collecting 441 points and conceding 152 including scoring 67 tries and conceding 23. By comparison Pirates has scored 354 pts (53 tries) and conceded 200 pts (25 tries).
It must be taken into consideration that Ruapehu scored 95 points (15 tries) with a first round 95-5 riot against Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri, a side that defaulted to Pirates first time up this season.
The records of the two teams this season are —
Ruapehu (9 wins, 4 losses, 10 bonus points) — v Kaierau: Won 15-5 (Home), lost 5-10 (Away).v Ngamatapouri: Won 95-5 (A), 60-10 (H). v Ratana: Won 71-12 (H), 52-7 (A). v Taihape: Lost 10-17 (H), won 22-45 (A). v Border: Won 22-29 (H), 26-12 (A). v Marist: Won 45-10 (A), lost 8-28 (H). v Pirates: Lost 10-12 (A).
Pirates (9 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss) — v Border: Won 22-17 (A), lost 13-25 (H). v Kaierau: Drew 19-all (H) and 18-all (A). v Marist: Won 27-17 (H), 27-25 (H). v Ratana: Won 43-5 (H), 65-5 (A). v Taihape: Won 23-17 (A), 23-15 (H). v Ngamatapouri: Won default (A), 62-26 (H). v Ruapehu: Won 12-10 (H).
There is also a vital game for level pegging third equal placed Marist and Taihape as they chase semifinal starts, with Border just a point in arrears and facing a much easier Ngamatapouri.
This time around here is the extra incentive of the Grand Hotel Challenge Cup being at stake after Marist’s fine 28-8 scalping of Ruapehu last weekend.
It was a first success for the green and whites on Rochfort Park following six successive defeats to the “Mountain Men” on the ground since a 22-all draw in 2011.
On top of this it was revenge for first round 45-10 loss to Ruapehu at Spriggens Park this year.
Now either Marist or Taihape will hold the Grand Shield for 2018, the trophy being at stake only during the two qualifying rounds.
There is a $500 Grand Hotel voucher at stake for Saturday’s winner with a drawn fixture favouring Marist.
More accurate goal-kicking enabled Taihape to beat Marist 33-26 in the first round at Memorial Park when each side scored four tries.
Marist is ahead 21 victories to 14 in games against Taihape since 2000, including 11 home wins, but the northern visitors have claimed the honours four times (34-22 in 2013, 55-7 in 2014, 48-22 in 2015 and 46-10 in the 2016 semi-finals) in the past six years.
Taihape has won on six occasions at Spriggens Park since the turn of the century. The 20-13 match at Memorial Park was drawn 16-all.
This season Taihape has won nine of 13 matches with the defeats against Border (11-39 away), Pirates (17-21 at home and 15-23 away) and Ruapehu (5-22 at home).
Taihape, however, has notched up two notable away scalps against last year’s finalists, beating Ruapehu 17-10 in Ohakune and Border 39-14 on Dallison Park.
Marist’s main glory in 2018 were the 42-20 home scalping of Border to avenge an earlier 22-45 defeat at Waverley and last weekend’s impressive away win against Ruapehu.
Although Marist has lost one more match than Taihape this year, the team has scored four more bonus points.
Leading point scorers for the two teams this year are Te Rangitapu McLeod (69), Dane Whale (56) and Jaye Flaws (45) for Taihape and Ashton Coates (55) and Cameron Crowley (50) for Marist
Marist has scored 381 pts (55 tries) and conceded 318 pts (36 tries) compared with Taihape’s 342 pts (50 tries) for and 217 (28 against).
Former champions Harvey Round Motors Ratana (five times between 2001 and 2011) and Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau (four titles between 1997 and 2005) meet at Marton Park on Saturday.
The two clubs, who have each qualified in the top four 11 times since the turn of the century, have had some great tussles with Ratana winning three close finals between 2002 and 2011 — 25-18, 16-14 and 17-15.
But the Maori club has gone through lean times in recent years, finally breaking a three-season 34-match losing spell recently with a 31-26 away win over Ngamatapouri.
Former strong Ratana teams have collected some good wins in previous seasons but will find Kaierau, winners of the last six games between the two clubs including 43-12 at Devon Road in the first round this year, formidable opposition this weekend.
Ngamatapouri, beaten 47-10 in the first round, has a tough home game against neighbours Waverley Harvesting Border.
Since returning from Taranaki Border has finished 8th (2011), 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 2d, 1st and 2nd (2017) over the past seven years and currently lie fifth on the points table.
Border this season has won eight of 13 matches. The most defeats in a season for the club were 10 in 2011 and six each in 2012 (finishing runners-up to Ruapehu) and 2014 (third behind Pirates and Ruapehu).
Defeats for the Waverley side this campaign have been at home against Pirates (17-22) and Ruapehu (12-26) and away to Ruapehu (19-22), Taihape (14-39) and Marist (20-42).
Kelso Hunterville, the only unbeaten side in the second round of the senior championship, will continue a keenly contested battle against Marist Celtic at Spriggens Park on Saturday.
Although Celtic has missed out on championship honours during the new millennium, compared with Hunterville’s impressive seven titles between 2007 and 2014 including a record six on the trot, there have been some very close encounters between the two teams.
Hunterville, who won 19-6 at home in this season’s first round en-route to heading Celtic by 3 pts (45 to 42) to win the McKee Cup (first round champions), has only suffered one defeat this year — 18-17 against Counties at McNab Domain.
Celtic’s only McKee Cup round defeat was against Hunterville but the city side was beaten 23-20 by Border at Spriggens Park in the championship series.
During Hunterville’s golden years Celtic won 17-3 away in 2014, 20-15 at home in 2013 and 16-5 in 2010, and drew 13-all at Spriggens Park in 2009 and 15-all at Hunterville in 2010.
Celtic has finished runners-up 2011 and third in 2007-10-14 and last year.
Marton and Border, both with 10 pts and assured of semifinal starts, meet at Waverley with the visitors looking to avenge an opening day 15-13 home defeat.
That match started a trend with the Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield changing hands nine times and sees the bottom placed nonchampionship qualifiers Counties and Taihape contesting the right to hold the trophy for 2018 in Taihape on Saturday.
Counties beat Taihape 35-6, also at Taihape, in the qualifying series.
Taihape beat Kaierau on Saturday.