‘A lot on the line’
POVERTY Bay’s opponents in rugby’s Heartland Championship tomorrow — Buller — have hit hot form just before the playoffs.
They made people sit up and take notice when they spanked West Coast 47-7 last week.
If Contract Consultants Poverty Bay want to be sure of making the playoffs, now is the time for them to click into gear themselves.
“We have to win to secure ourselves a place in finals footy,” captain Ken Houkamau said ahead of a long trip to Westport. “There’s a lot on the line.”
A home semifinal is the target for Poverty Bay and Buller tomorrow.
That will probably be the reward for the winners of their clash, while the losers risk missing the playoffs altogether.
The equation for eighth-placed Poverty Bay is simple enough — win and, if possible, win handsomely.
If they win, get a competition bonus point and other results go their way, they could even make the Meads Cup top four.
More likely, a win would probably earn them a home semifinal in the Lochore Cup for the teams ranked fifth to eighth.
If they lose, ninth-placed Horowhenua Kapiti could push them out of the top eight by beating Wanganui.
A draw for Poverty Bay would probably be enough to keep them in the Lochore Cup playoffs but their semifinal would be an away game.
The equation for seventh-placed Buller is similar. But one competition bonus point, for either a narrow loss or for scoring four tries, would be enough to seal a top-eight spot.
Houkamau said the prospect of a semifinal in Gisborne (or even sneaking into the top four) was a big motivator for Poverty Bay.
They were taking a positive mindset into the game but expected their opponents to be strong.
“We took note of their impressive win (last week),” Houkamau said. “We know it’s going to be difficult down there.”
Houkamau said the forwards performed well in the team’s 24-20 win over Ngati Porou East Coast last week.
“If we can match Buller up front, we’ll give our backs opportunities.”
With halfback Willy Grogan unavailable this week, Mario Counsell will start at No.9. Jacob Leaf, who has been playing at second five-eighth, moves to the substitutes bench, providing halfback cover.
Andrew Tauatevalu, ruled out with injury last week, returns to the side at centre and Tane McGuire moves in one place to second-five.
Prop Campbell Chrisp and outside back Korey Love come into the reserves.
Buller coach Justin Martyn said his team had been “tracking quite well all year” but their attitude was spot-on against West Coast. They also looked good in their 20-17 loss to Wairarapa Bush the previous week but blew try-scoring opportunities.
Wing Mitieli Kaloudigibeci and first-five James Lash, who had a 27-point haul last week, will each bring up 50 games for Buller tomorrow.
Houkamau said the Bay team were catching three flights to get to Greymouth today and would then bus to Westport.
Jono Bredin, a former international netball umpire, will referee the clash.
POVERTY BAY: Kelvin Smith, Scotty McKinley, Andrew Tauatevalu, Tane McGuire, Matt Raleigh, Beaudein Waaka, Mario Counsell, Tamanui Hill, Adrian Wyrill, Quade Tapsell, Gabe Te Kani, Ken Houkamau (c), Jody Allen, Rikki Terekia, Toru Noanoa. Reserves: Matekaeroa McGuire, Campbell Chrisp, Juston Allen, Will Bolingford, Jacob Leaf, Jake Holmes, Korey Love.