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Beat Buller . . . then see what happens

POVERTY Bay are probably playing this week for a home semifinal in Heartland rugby’s Lochore Cup but they have a slim chance of sneaking into the Meads Cup group or, if things go badly, could miss the playoffs altogether.

After their 24-20 win against Ngati Porou East Coast (with a bonus point for scoring four tries) last weekend, Poverty Bay are eighth on the Heartland Championship ladder.

The only sure way of staying in the top eight is to beat seventh-placed Buller at Westport on Saturday.

If Poverty Bay lose, and if Horowhenua Kapiti upset Wanganui, the Bay will be consigned to the bottom four in the 12-team competition.

Win and their most likely destination is the Lochore Cup playoffs involving the teams ranked fifth to eighth. The Bay’s semifinal would probably be in Gisborne.

If they lose, they will need Wanganui to beat ninth-placed Horowhenua Kapiti, who are two competition points behind Poverty Bay’s 19.

If the Bay lose, but remain in the top eight, their semifinal will be away.

The Meads Cup semifinals are for the top four teams and it’s technically possible Poverty Bay could make it but they would be relying on an unlikely set of circumstances.

They would need at least two teams to drop out of the top four and one of those teams cannot be competition leaders Thames Valley.

All workable scenarios to make the Meads Cup playoffs require Poverty Bay to get a win with a bonus point.

That will be some ask after Buller crushed West Coast 47-7 last Saturday.

Poverty Bay have struggled on the road this season, getting a win against 2018 champions Thames Valley but losing to Wairarapa Bush and Horowhenua Kapiti after poor starts in those games.

They would also need two other results to go their way.

A quirk of the draw is that the top four teams play the bottom four teams this week.

The middle four play each other and the winners of the game between South Canterbury and West Coast will finish above Poverty Bay.

Poverty Bay’s best hope for opening the door to scrape into the Meads Cup group is for third-placed Wairarapa Bush to trip up against 11th-placed Mid Canterbury and for that upset loss not to be close.

Wairarapa Bush, on 24 points, are catchable on points differential.

The Bay would also probably need Horowhenua Kapiti to upset Wanganui.

Wanganui are fourth, on 23 points, and a bonus point for a tight loss or for scoring four tries would be enough to see off Poverty Bay.

Fans of Poverty Bay may cheer on Horowhenua Kapiti but only if the Bay look destined to beat Buller handsomely.

Tairawhiti sports fans may like an alternative scenario much better.

If bottom-of-the-table Coast put second-placed North Otago to the sword at Ruatoria and if Poverty Bay run riot at Westport — and if one other result goes the Bay’s way — they could make the top four.

The most constructive thing a Poverty Bay fan might do, therefore, is trust their side to get the job done in Westport and drive to Ruatoria to urge Ngati Porou East Coast on to their first win in the championship since 2013.

For Poverty Bay, anything less than a win against Buller could result in them missing the top eight.

If they win, a Lochore Cup home semifinal is their likely reward.,P W D L F A B Pts

Thames V. 7 5 0 2 203 148 5 25

North Otago 7 5 0 2 180 137 4 24

Wai Bush. 7 5 0 2 180 171 4 24

Wanganui 7 4 0 3 256 169 7 23

Sth Cant. 7 4 1 2 213 149 5 23

West Coast 7 5 0 2 190 208 2 22

Buller 7 4 0 3 225 170 5 21

Poverty Bay 7 3 0 4 211 221 7 19

Horo Kapiti 7 3 0 4 169 212 5 17

King Country 7 2 0 2 176 230 5 13

Mid Cant 7 1 1 5 151 205 4 10

East Coast 7 0 0 7 124 258 3 3