Moutere must win for semis shot
The scenario is simple: If Moutere want to clinch the last semifinal playoff spot in Marlborough premier club rugby, they must beat Biddy Kates Central at Awarua Park tomorrow.
At the moment, the Magpies lie fifth on the table, one point behind TvA Awatere, who have a game in hand. If Moutere are to have any chance of making the semis, they must overcome Central, preferably with a bonus point, and hope Awatere are tipped over by BNZ Partners Harlequins at Seddon tomorrow. The Tussocks' last-round match is against the winless Kirk Nicholas Builders Renwick, in Renwick on July 5, so they certainly hold the upper hand.
But Moutere can only take care of their own business, and that will mean getting the better of a Blues side starting to hit its straps as the season builds to a climax.
Central are coming off a default win over Nelson last week, so should be well-rested. They are expected to be without hard-working loose forwards Matt Gibson, Dusty Foley and halfback Anton Tiumalu, with the versatile Ra Tamati donning the No 9 shirt again.
Their front row of Johnny Tiueti, Jesse MacDonald and Riley Luke will be bolstered by the return of Makos hooker Quentin MacDonald, who forms part of an impressive-looking bench, sitting alongside midfielder Fo'ou Tiueti and former Red Devils and Munster utility back Jeremy Manning.
The home side was hard-pressed to field a side last week, but made the trip to Nelson nonetheless. Injuries and unavailabilities have stretched their resources.
They will still be without hooker Francis Smith this week, with Kaleb Avery a handy replacement, while Greg Blick comes back into the fold, probably in the No 10 jersey with Wavell Te Tai absent. The impressive loose forward combination of Mike Curry, Josh Scott and Nili Moala are back in harness, knowing, as coach Laurin Gane points out, the importance of the match. "If we don't win this one we're gone," Gane said.
Awatere were also the recipients of a default win last week, and coach Glen Blackmore is able to name the same side he planned to field last Saturday for their home clash with Harlequins.
The return of mobile No 8 James Brown will add size and strength to the Tussocks pack, Lui Finau shifting to blindside flanker, while prop Jack Best will make his first start since being injured in round one.
Harlequins will be bolstered by the reappearance of centre Chris Tau'alupe. Former Red Devils prop Fetu Ieremia has filled in well for the Quins in the loose, while English flanker Steve Uren continues to be a factor at the breakdowns. The match starts at the earlier time of 2.35pm.
Although they have a game in hand over Moutere, Awatere will be keen to solve the semifinal puzzle tomorrow.
Bayleys Tasman Trophy leaders Crafar Crouch Waitohi carry their unbeaten record to Stoke, wary of a slip-up as the business end of the season approaches. Tomorrow they start with try-scoring prop Ross Geldenhuys in the reserves. The big South African has been chosen to play for a Barbarians side against the Highlanders in Invercargill tonight. James Hounslow will start at tighthead, and Jayden Waters slots in at centre, while the rest of the side is intact from that which overcame Kahurangi last weekend.
Renwick host the strong Waimea OB combination at home.
Tasman Trophy draw: 2:35pm Awatere v Harlequins at Seddon Domain; 3pm Renwick v Waimea OB at Renwick Domain; 3pm Moutere v Central at Awarua Park; 3pm Stoke v Waitohi at Greenmeadows, Stoke; 3pm Kahurangi v Wakatu at Riwaka; 3pm Nelson v Wanderers at Trafalgar Park.
Marlborough competition points: Waitohi, played 9, 38; Central, played 9, 30; Harlequins, played 8, 26; Awatere, played 8, 19; Moutere, played 9, 18; Renwick, played 9, 1.
The Marlborough Express