Wed, 19 Apr 2017
Ardmore Marist South Auckland Motors sit alone at the top of the table as we approach the end of the first round but they have a couple of significant hurdles to jump.
The competition leaders face a stern test against Karaka at EcoLight Stadium number 2 on Saturday in the Counties Power Game of the Week before completing the first round with games against Onewhero and second-placed Patumahoe.
A win over Karaka could see Ardmore-Marist guaranteed to complete the first round on top but coach Saua Leaupepetele isn’t worried about that.
“Every game is a big test for us because you just don’t know what they are going to bring,” he says.
“The score lines are not a true reflection with how teams are progressing. You have players coming in and out of teams and the refereeing plays a big part as well.”
“We are seeing this as a big test but just like every other game before.”
Leaupepetele is expecting to see a fired up Karaka outfit out to make amends for a shock last-start loss to Patumahoe.
“They will be looking to improve and do better after losing that game the week before – Patty certainly hasn’t done us any favours there.
“That is the thing about this competition – if you don’t turn up ready to go or a little short teams will find you out.
“We are expecting a tough game. They are big, powerful ball-runners that like to play fast. The challenge for us is to contain that.
“We will still have some players out with rep commitments and so forth but it is a more consistent side than what we have had previously.”
Karaka will be looking to bounce back after that loss at Patumahoe. After dropping their opening game of the season against Pukekohe Craig Hill’s side had gone on a four-game winning run before last week’s upset.
Hill admits it is imperative his side gets a win over Ardmore-Marist.
“It is probably more important for us than them I’d imagine,” he says.
“We dropped a game last week and to keep in touch with the leaders we can’t really afford to drop another one.
“It is important we bounce back after last week and just give the guys some confidence in what they’re doing.”
Hill says the games between these two clubs in recent years have been open and entertaining clashes.
“I think generally when we play these guys it is kind of like playing ourselves really. I think it will be pretty open, which will probably create some opportunities for us hopefully.”
With a number of teams within a win or two of each other it is hard to accurately come up with a clear pecking order in this year’s championship.
“It is hard to know because the results have been so up and down,” Hill says. “There have been big blow outs and then games that you think ought to be fait accompli but hasn’t been like that.
“Most of the teams seem pretty even – the only one that is out there is Ardmore really.”