Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau find themselves caught in the spotlight, literally, for the second time in three seasons as they travel to Dallison Park this evening for the annual May night game with the undefeated Waverley Harvesting Border.
Played tonight under lights to allow 80 per cent of the Border players to take part in the start of the duck shooting season tomorrow morning, Kaierau’s veterans will remember 2013 where a litany of dropped ball in the evening dew let the home team score three early tries to set up a 28-8 shutout in the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield game.
At the time, then-Kaierau co-coach Anton Edwards made it clear he would be unlikely to be accommodating of his team travelling for another night fixture.
However, Edward’s partner Keith Savell, now in sole charge, said he should be able to bring his full squad out of town by 5.30pm tonight for the kickoff two hours later.
“We’ve always had a pretty good relationship with Border.
“Night rugby’s a little bit different – different elements. Handling is going to be key as well.
“You don’t want to kick away too much possession.”
Savell’s team are coming off their second bye week in three weeks, and the familiar tune playing on the jukebox is that keeping the squad focused without game time is a real problem, although the turnout was better than the previous occasion.
“Intensity definitely drops down a bit.”
After his brawl with boxing gloves at the Rise of the Fallen show last weekend, representative first-five Areta Lama will return to the starting lineup, with the backline being rejigged slightly due to niggling injuries.
The onus will fall on the outside backs like Karl Pascoe and Taylor Kirkwood to adjust their eyes to the ball coming out of the lights, as a spill or indecision can end up costing a lot of metres.
Unbeaten in four games and having picked up road wins in Ohakune over McCarthy’s Transport Ruapehu and then the surprise 15-12 victory over PGG Wrightson/Ballance Taihape at Memorial Park, Border coach Ross Williams is comfortable with his team’s progress, considering they have not come close to full potential.
“We played some okay footy in patches,” he said.
“Quite satisfied with the result in the weekend, but we know we’ve got a long way to go.
“We’re not going to win the comp [right] now.”
As well as 2013, Border also put 28 points on Speirs Food Marton in the night game last year, again by capitalising on opposition mistakes, yet Williams downplays the notion his guys are twilight specialists.
“We train under it, we’re not ideally comfortable with it.
“We’re very wary of Kaierau. Twenty eight points will be a stretch.”
After watching his father Warwick Lupton crash end-over-end in his hydroplane at Cromwell’s Lake Dunstan last weekend, Jack Lupton returns to first-five.
Initially not going to go to Taihape, prop Kamipeli Latu played thirty minutes off the bench and returns to the starting lineup, while backs Tom Symes and Karl Priddle should come back on the bench.
The team has lost key lock Jack Hodges with a torn calf muscle, so Andrew Retallick will switch from prop to the second row.
As well as Dallison Park, there should be a very strong crowd at Memorial Park for the Taihape vs Utiku Old Boys local derby.
Both teams have been on the rise – Taihape eyeing the top of the table with the young veterans, while Utiku have been led by their Fijian speedsters to great heights so far.
Both stumbled last weekend against Border and Integrity Motors Pirates respectively, yet their rivalry has always been competitive no matter where each team is camped on the table, and this time either one could go to the top, depending on what happens on Friday night.
Taihape coach Kerry Whale is fostering a well rounded outfit to play 15-man footy, while Utiku are all about the high risk for high reward – willing to attack from anywhere.
At Spriggens Park, either Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist or Harvey Round Motors Ratana will finally break their duck for 2015 as they search for their first win of the season.
Marist have had the cursed bye – a handicap that the Wanganui Rugby Football Union is looking to address for the second round of games – and Marist coach Jason Hamlin said they have used the break to get back to basics by attacking the breakdown and trying to play more with ball in hand.
“Really try to get ourselves back to where we were, prior to the Pirates game.”
Representative prop Viki Tofa makes a welcome return from leg injury, although the team suffered a blow losing flanker Lake Ah Chong for at least six weeks with a rib injury.
Lock Sam Stewart and No8 Jake Alabaster will also be in for a tough day in the engine room against the Ratana forwards, who will play it tight all match.
“Sam and Jake, if we can get some go forward out of them, it would go a long way to helping us.
“You know what [Ratana’s] giving you, and they’re very, very good at it.
“You’ve got to play well for a key period … as they can fade,” he said.
By Jared Smith – Wanganui Chronicle