Eight teams remain in contention for Tasman Trophy play-off positions
Eight teams remain in contention for the Tasman Trophy semifinals as the top of the south rugby competition enters its penultimate round on Saturday.
In one of the closest races for several years, five Nelson-based sides and three from this side of the hill are within reach of a prized play-off position.
Unbeaten Nelson (38 points) appear to have a semifinal berth locked down, barring disaster, but they will be fully tested on Saturday at Neale Park by a Waitohi side who have performed better away from their home base during the crossover phase. The Tohis (29 points) sit on the edge of the play-off picture, turning this match into a must-win if they are to progress.
Waimea Old Boys, second on 34 points, have strung together three hefty wins since losing to Moutere in the first round of cross-over games. They travel to Blenheim's Lansdowne Park for a meeting with bottom-placed Harlequins and will be expected to prevail. However the Quins, if they muster get sufficient numbers, can play tough at home as they showed when they tipped over Kahurangi in round two.
* Last week
Moutere, who sit third on the table with 30 points, got a stark reminder last week of what can happen if you are off your game, being hammered by 50 points by Nelson. They have an immediate opportunity to put things right and pick up crucial points on Saturday, hosting Kahurangi at Awarua Park. The Magpies will be without skipper Vernon Fredericks, who is in Suva with the Crusaders, but welcome Joe Samu and Luke Scott into the loose forward mix. Goalkicker Jordan Newman is out, replaced by Aisea Halo in the 10 jersey. The prized Tasman Crop/Zelam Shield is at stake in this one.
Renwick, fourth on 29 points, are at home again, with Stoke the visitors this week. The Green Machine showed great resolve in their narrow win over Marist last week and will need plenty more of the same against the dangerous Stoke combination, who put 52 points on Central last week.
Wanderers, with 28 points, are also in the picture and tackle East Coast at Brightwater. The Coasters have been in contention for large parts of most of their games but have yet to produce an 80-minute effort. If they are to nab a play-off position in the Marlborough sub-union competition, the club season's finale, it is time to start picking up points.
Marist, despite their loss last week, have a slim chance of making the Tasman Trophy semifinals but will need to get past Central at Tahunanui first. The Blues, who have under-performed in the cross-over games, will be looking for a boost, especially on defence, heading into the Marlborough championship games.
The Marlborough Boys' College First XV have a rest on Saturday but will be in action against Shirley Boys' High School in Blenheim on Tuesday, a traditional inter school fixture. The game starts at midday.
Saturday's fixtures: Moutere v Kahurangi, Awarua Park; Wanderers v East Coast, Brightwater; Harlequins v Waimea Old Boys, Lansdowne Park; Nelson v Waitohi, Neale Park; Renwick v Stoke, Renwick Domain; Marist v Central, Tahunanui. All games kick off at 3pm.
Tasman Trophy standings: Nelson 38, Waimea Old Boys 34, Moutere 30, Renwick 29, Waitohi 29, Wanderers 28, Stoke 26, Marist 26, Central 13, Kahurangi 11, East Coast 6, Harlequins 1.