Make or break week­end for clubs

Wanganui Midweek - - PUZZLE PAGE -

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).

Hun­ter­ville Poised

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.

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