Rugby and mud wrestling: Marist and Kaierau rematch

I’m never one to question why
I walk straight in, I always do or die
I do or die
Well, I stand and face the fire

I do or die

  • Jimmy Barnes, 1987

By Jared Smith

No compromise and no second chances – passions are expected to be high when Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist run it back with Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau in the Tasman Tanning Premier derby on Saturday.

The match would have enough spice between the cross-town rivals after Marist lifted from their years of disappointment to smash Kaierau 41-10 at the Country Club on May 5, scoring 30 unanswered points in the second half and then dancing the night away in the home team’s clubrooms – figuratively on their graves.

But now, sitting fourth and fifth on the points table respectively with Kaierau having one game in hand on Marist, both teams know this is a match neither can afford to lose.

Kaierau showed great character to pick up a 27-24 win over defending champions Waverley Harvesting Border on May 28, with Marist catching the backlash as the South Taranaki got themselves back to full strength by the time they beat Marist 45-14 in Waverley last weekend.

“It’s kind of the story of a couple of games this season,” said Marist coach Travers Hopkins.

“We compete for 40-50 minutes, then they get away on us.

“I’m not sure what it is. We went up confident, but Chock [Craig Clare] just had one of those games, where he was kicking it from anywhere on the field.”

With seven players named in the wider Steelform Whanganui squad, three more than Kaierau, Marist should be reaching the point of getting over a Border or Byford’s Readimix Taihape, yet have still lost to both by clear margins.

But there is never a mental block against Kaierau – too many friendships, rivalries and in some cases, bad blood exists between the squads – with Hopkins requiring no psychological ploys at training this week.

“Regardless of who’s who, the boys are definitely keen on that,” he said.

“It’s getting to that backs against the wall stage.”

The bad weather over the past two weeks has reduced Spriggens to its stereotypical muddiest – reminiscent of 12 months ago when Marist heralded the changing of the guard when they slipped past McCarthy’s Transport Ruapehu 17-13 to ultimately end their run of 13 seasons of semifinal appearances.

It was a day where the uniforms were so muddy that forwards struggled to tell friend from foe.

Marist have the muscle up front with in-form Keightley Watson, while Canadian import Marc Ouellet graduated to being his starting prop partner in recent games.

However, given the opponent, Hopkins was toying with starting with veteran Cameron Neilson, one of the standouts in the May 5 win.

“We’re just looking at what we know of Kaierau, and how they play, and what we can do with Cam.

“I think this year our forwards have really stepped up – adapted really well to different conditions.

 “[The ground’s] very much what you’d expect from June rugby. Here’s hoping if we get a bit of wind, it will dry off.

“The boy’s hold their mettle, and we’ll get the result we need. It’s going to be a little bit tighter for us.”

Marist will have to go ahead without their star first-five Rangi Kui, who scored the winning converted try last year against Ruapehu and contributed 21 points in the Kaierau win.

Regular fullback Paiki Ponga took over the cutter against Border, picking up the man of the match award, while outside him Daniel Kauika takes on added playmaking work and the goal kicking.

To say Kaierau have taken this match dead seriously is an understatement – having had a bye and the Queen’s Birthday weekend break when Whanganui’s game with Wairarapa was cancelled, co-coaches Tony McBride and Te Hau Teki organised added Saturday sessions.

“It’s all on this one – that’s it,” McBride said.

“We’ve changed our approach a bit as a group of players.”

Previously, Kaierau had taken a wider view on how they were going to get back to the Premier final this year, perhaps looking past some teams.

But after four losses, they aren’t worrying about next week – it’s one game at a time and sudden death for all.

“We made a decision that if we’re going to make the semis, we have to win every game,” said McBride.

“It’s also good we’re as close to full strength as we’ve been this season.”

Whanganui wider-squad halfback Caleb Gray missed the Marist match, while influential lock Josh Lane limped off early – both are now fit and ready, as well as skipper Ethan Robinson completing his suspension.

McBride well remembers Kaierau’s penalty count for offside at the break down was a killer in their previous match, where Marist got the advantage in both scrum and lineout.

Knowing Spriggens is likely to be a mud heap, they are totally expecting another tight tussle where the best set piece carries the day.

“Absolutely – training’s been fun the last two weeks because it’s been torrential rain and hail.

“We’ve been preparing for the last two weeks fully for this game.”

The match will be the main event of Marist RFC’s Old Timers Day with all three teams playing at home.

The other derby clash up the Waitotara Valley will see if Settler’s Honey Ngamtapouri can make lightning strike twice against Border, after they defeated a very understrength home side 14-0 in the Duck Shooting night match on May 4.

The draw is

Premier (2.35pm kickoffs):

Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist vs Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau, Spriggens Park

Settler’s Honey Ngamatapouri vs Waverley Harvesting Border, Waitotara Valley

Bye: Byford’s Readimix Taihape