After getting rid of some early rust in their first matches last weekend, all six teams are hoping to iron out a few more kinks when round two of the Wadsco Marlborough premier club rugby competition kicks-off tomorrow.
Perhaps the biggest of three intriguing clashes is at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim, where Biddy Kates Central take on Crafar Crouch Waitohi on the No 1 ground.
The defending champion Blues were forced to come from behind to knock over Harlequins in round one and will almost certainly need to be better to go two-from-two. Coach Steve Crockett was "pretty pleased overall" with this sides display, particularly on defence, but was after a much better start this week and said they needed to tidy their work up around the breakdown. A standout from the Quins match, centre Jake Cresswell is unavailable and is their only significant loss, although utility back Ra Tamati could also be out.
Echoing the comments of most of the coaches, Waitohi's Tonga Taumoefolau said his team had been focusing on nothing but themselves and making sure they were playing the style they wanted to bring. Veteran loose-forward Les Ivamy has a sore elbow and has been rested as a precaution, but the Tohis lose nothing with Tasman Mako Vernon Fredericks coming back after sitting out the first match with injury. Lock Jack Evans is unavailable and will be replaced by James Ivamy.
Moutere started their campaign positively against Renwick, but there has been some bad news for the Magpies ahead of their match against BNZ Partners Harlequins in Spring Creek.
Promising new halfback Johnny Ika is out for three or more weeks with a popped knee-cap, while utility forward Willie McCormick is gone for 2-3 weeks thanks to a fractured arm. Adding to that, lock James Pigou is not available and hooker Francis Smith is still to return from Cook Islands duty. One upside is the possible inclusion of utility Andrew Purua, who played for the Tasman under-20 side last season, but coach Laurin Gane admitted there were still several spots to be confirmed at last night's training and said they were "under the pump a little in the backs." Quins will be without one key player, prop Fetu Ieremia out for around three weeks with a calf injury, but coach Richard McNamara said he had sufficient cover to call on. He felt his team were "a bit hit and run" in last week's loss to Central and said tomorrow was about getting better at "employing our structures when the bullets are flying." Completing the round is the battle between last year's bottom two sides, TvA Awatere and Kirk Nicholas Builders Renwick, at the Seddon Domain.
The new-look Tussock Jumpers showed immediate signs of improvement in their defeat to Waitohi, but coach Glenn Blackmore was still disappointed to lose and said his charges needed to be more physical and maintain better discipline this week. He had only two confirmed changes to his lineup, with tighthead prop Jack Best replaced by Craig Vanstone and Simon Muir coming in for new loose-forward James Brown, who has a hand injury.
Renwick came through their first match largely unscathed and the return of Ryan McQuillan at hooker is the only significant change to their side. Coach Tony Katting said they had sorted out some issues at training this week and was optimistic of a better showing from his team.
All three matches are set for a 3pm kick-off, with Ken McKenzie (Moutere v Quins), Peter Tolan (Central v Waitohi) and Dave Woodhouse (Awatere v Renwick) the referees.
WE PICK THE WINNERS
The writer's picks for tomorrow premier rugby matches: Moutere v Harlequins – Moutere by 5. Central v Waitohi – Central by 4. Awatere v Renwick – Awatere by 10.
- The Marlborough Express