In form teams to clash this week­end

Franklin County News - - SPORT -

Two high fly­ing teams fea­ture in this Easter week­end’s Coun­ties Power Game of the Week with Pukekohe host­ing Ard­more Marist at Colin Lawrie Fields.

The two clubs have been reg­u­lar con­tenders for the McNa­mara Cup over the past decade and a half and both teams have al­ready shown the sort of form in 2018 that should see them fight­ing for the top prize at the end of the sea­son.

With eight club ti­tles be­tween them since the turn of the last mil­len­nium and 14 in to­tal these two sides have run into each on the big stage a num­ber of times.

Pukekohe coach Mark Price has fea­tured in a num­ber of those clashes over the years and is ex­pect­ing the same ri­valry to con­tinue this year.

‘‘They have al­ways been one of the top run­ners in the last few years and they usu­ally have some pretty ex­cit­ing backs and some de­cent sized for­wards.We are ex­pect­ing a pretty good tus­sle up front and also if they spin it wide their backs can be pretty dan­ger­ous as well’’

While mind­ful of what Ard­more Marist is ca­pa­ble of do­ing Price, a Coun­ties Manukau Steel­ers cen­tu­rion and dou­ble cen­tu­rion for his beloved Pukekohe club, in­sists the pri­mary fo­cus will be get­ting the best out of their own per­for­mance.

‘‘Per­son­ally I think at this point in the sea­son we are try­ing to get our game go­ing rather than wor­ry­ing too much about what the op­po­si­tion is do­ing,’’ Price said.

‘‘We ob­vi­ously do have a lit­tle look at what they are and what we think they will bring but most of it, at this time of the sea­son, is tai­lored around what we would like to do.’’

Ard­more Marist made a slow start to the 2018 sea­son as they al­lowed Ma­nurewa to get out to a big half­time lead in their open­ing game but they have stormed into top form ever since.

They al­most pro­duced a stun­ning come­back win in that open­ing match – fall­ing ag­o­nis­ingly close – be­fore con­vinc­ing wins over Waiuku and Pa­pakura in the past fort­night.

That sees them sit­ting sec­ond on the lad­der head­ing into the week­end but coach Doug Sanft has mixed views on whether his team has hit its straps just yet.

‘‘Yes and no,’’ he said. ‘‘There are a lot of learn­ings to come through these last few games. I know Pukekohe had a good win on the week­end against Ma­nurewa. ‘‘It will be a big game for us.’’ Sanft en­joyed a good ri­valry with Pukekohe dur­ing his play­ing days and he ex­pects that same com­pet­i­tive­ness to trans­fer to the cur­rent squads come Satur­day.

‘‘I ex­pect their phys­i­cal­ity,’’ he said. ‘‘I know back when I was play­ing Pukekohe was al­ways one of the top flight teams in the Coun­ties Union and I don’t ex­pect any­thing dif­fer­ent.’’

Two matches will take place on Thurs­day night un­der lights with top of the ta­ble Pa­tuma­hoe host­ing bottom-placed Te Kauwhata at Pa­tuma­hoe, while Waiuku trav­els to Massey Park to face Pa­pakura on the same evening.

Bom­bay hosts Ma­nurewa in a mouth-wa­ter­ing con­test on Satur­day and Onewhero and Karaka will go head to head.

Coun­ties Manukau Rugby Football Union March 29

Pre­mier 1: Pa­pakura v Waiuku, Massey Park, 8.15pm; Pa­tuma­hoe v Te Kauwhata, Pa­tuma­hoe, 7pm. Pre­mier 2: Pa­pakura v Waiuku, Massey Park, 6.30pm; Onewhero v Karaka, Karaka, 7pm.

March 30

Pre­mier 2: Pa­tuma­hoe v Te Kauwhata, Pa­tuma­hoe, 12pm.

March 31

Pre­mier 1: Bom­bay v Ma­nurewa, Bom­bay, 2.25pm; Pukekohe v Ard­more Marist, Colin Lawrie Fields, 2.45pm; Onewhero v Karaka, Onewhero, 1pm. Pre­mier 2: Bom­bay v Ma­nurewa, Bom­bay, 1pm; Pukekohe v Ard­more Marist, Colin Lawrie Fields, 1pm.

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