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Will third time be the charm for Ruapehu?

By Jared Smith

You don’t often get a chance at redemption – McCarthy’s Transport Ruapehu will have their second at Rochfort Park on Saturday.

Gemini Pepper Construction Kaierau will be bringing the Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield with them – Ruapehu’s third crack this Tasman Tanning Senior season after heartbreak in two previous challenges to JJ Walters Marton.

They lost 27-24 on May 7 during the Country group games, and drew 22-22 on May 28 in Division 1 – both occasions seeing them make big second half comebacks but just fall short of lifting the prize.

“We get them at home, so hopefully the boys should pull together and get it off them,” said team manager Jamie Brock, part of the group which includes head coach Willie McDonnell and advisor Kim McNaught, previously coach of the now in-recess Premier side.

“Pretty not good, losing the Premier team, but the Seniors have stepped up and seem to be doing alright,” said Brock.

Ruapehu finished second on the table in the ultra-tough Country group with a 3-2 record, and Brock is well aware that lifting the shield would just as importantly give them a massive boost towards confirming a Division 1 semifinal spot, currently sitting with a 1-1-1 record – two late tries at Spriggens Park last Saturday bringing in a priceless bonus point in the 34-24 loss to Ali Arc Logistics-TD Brick & Blocks Marist Celtic.

“We’re close to the strongest, a few out with injuries,” said Brock.

Ruapehu still have a reasonable number of players who were regulars in the Premier level or floated between the two squads.

Halfback and 2019 Steelform Wanganui representative Kahl Elers-Green has returned home this season, and was the sole Senior-club player chosen for the wider representative squad,

Prop Mac Edmonds, flanker Hamish MacKay, first-five Andre McDonnell, 2021 Heartland Hurricanes U20’s lock Dawson Sisson and the Trow’s – Morvin and Royce – have big match experience.

Brock confirmed that “for sure” their passion to play remains undiminished, enjoying the traditional BBQ and beers after Tuesday trainings.

With veterans surrounded by youth, in the past Ruapehu was known for a dominant forward pack at the front of a developing backline, but Brock said the 2022 group is a little more rounded.

“It just depends on the week – they’re all firing pretty good, it’s hard pick out forwards and backs sometimes.”

In any case, Ruapehu will be hoping for a good crowd under the mountain this Saturday to see them hopefully lift the shield after getting so close previously, while going a long way to locking in their playoffs spot.

The draw is

Senior (1pm kickoffs unless noted, times subject to change):

Division 1

Ratana vs Pirates, Ratana Pa; Ruapehu vs Kaierau, Rochfort Park; Marton vs Celtic, Marton Park.

Division 2

Taihape vs Counties, Memorial Park; Hunterville vs Utiku Old Boys, Hunterville Domain; Bye: Buffalos.