Counties Power Game of the Week - Karaka v Waiuku U85s

Two desperate sides meet each other in a crucial McNamara Cup contest this week as Onewhero Summit Homes hosts Pukekohe Mitre 10 Mega.

Both sides are coming off last round losses and will need to secure victory in order to keep in touch with the leading sides.

Onewhero are stuck on the bottom of the standings but have played much better than their position would indicate. They all but beat Ardmore Marist South Auckland Motors a fortnight ago before the 2019 runners-up got out of jail as time expired and have generally been more competitive than results suggest.

“We are confident once we get our first win on the board it is going to be danger time for everyone else,” coach Jason Myks said.

“It is just a matter of consistency.

“Once we get the belief in players minds we will be away. We are really good at letting our foot off the throat at times.”

The geographical challenge for the most rural premier club in the region is a factor with some players having to travel a long way to play for the club.

“To play at Onewhero is a big commitment if you don’t live in the nearby area,” Myks said. “There are plenty of players, coaches and management staff that make a big sacrifice.

“That is our biggest challenge – getting time together on and off the park – post match, pre match. Just because it is some a big challenge to commit to Onewhero.”

Pukekohe picked up close wins over Papakura and Patumahoe Troydon Patumahoe Hotel in their first two games after the Covid-19 break but they fell to Ardmore Marist last weekend.

Coach Sean Polwart agrees it is important for his side to bounce back and get a victory over their southern rivals.

“The nature of this competition means any win you can get is crucial really,” Polwart said. “We are seeing with results that any team is capable on any day and it comes down to who is most prepared.

“It is massive – really important for us. We had a couple of wins after lockdown and then a loss on the weekend so we need to get back on the horse so we can be in the mix come semi-final time.”

It is vitally important in such an even competition that you beat teams below you on the ladder but that is not an easy task as it has been in previous seasons.

The fact that Onewhero are yet to win a game does not make Polwart think they just need to turn up to get the points.

“If you go in unprepared to any game you know you have the capabilities to win then you will get tipped up,” he said.

“Any win in this competition is hugely important – you have to fight for wins because none of them come easily.

“It is a cliché but Onewhero are always tough up on the hill regardless of what side they put out. We are expecting nothing less than that on Saturday.

“We will have to prepare properly to go up there and get a result.”

In other games Papakura hosts neighbours Karaka at Massey Park while Bombay heads to Patumahoe and Ardmore Marist hosts Waiuku Brian James Contracting.

Waiuku travels to Karaka Sports Complex in a crucial U85kg match that will feature as the Counties Power Game of the Week.

The two evenly matched sides lie inside the crowded top four at present – Karaka with a two win, one loss record while Waiuku have two wins and bye through the opening three weekends so far.

“In 2018 we beat them twice in round robin and then last year they came back and beat us twice in round robin so there is a bit of a rivalry there over the last couple of years,” Karaka coach Shane Lovell said.

“We definitely want to get one back on them especially with it only being a one round competition this season.”

Referees have promised to crack down on foul play that has been prevalent in the grade from this week and Lovell welcomes that thinking.

“Our team knows about conduct in the game – I won’t stand for it with young people on the side watching,” he explained. “It can lead to penalties, yellow cards and red cards. Karaka knows I won’t stand for it so I think we are OK in that regard.”

The U85kg grade has improved out of sight in recent years with nine clubs competing for the trophy this season more than half of those teams in with a serious shot at winning the title.

“We have seen even the lower teams like Bombay – we played them first up – and they have grown a heap since last year and are a lot better. It was awesome seeing Beachlands beat Pukekohe.

“The grade definitely is getting better.

“I still think it will be the top five – Pukekohe, Papakura, Patumahoe, Waiuku and us fighting it out but the grade is definitely getting more even.”

Manurewa Wise Property Management hosts Weymouth in a clash between neighbouring Premier 2 sides while Puni, Drury and Tuakau all host Premier 3 matches.
Many eyes will be on the secondary schools clash between long-time rivals Wesley College and Manurewa High School. The two have not played each other in five seasons and so Saturday’s clash at Wesley College will be eagerly anticipated. To add to the occasion, Sky Sport will broadcast the game live.