Wed, 07 Jun 2017
The last time they met Ardmore Marist South Auckland Motors scored a last-gasp try to beat Bombay Gough Cat in a match that saw the lead change a number of times in the final 10 minutes.
It is no surprise then that the corresponding fixture between last year's finalists at Bruce Pulman Park on Saturday features as the Counties Power Game of the Week.
Bombay travels to Ardmore Marist’s home ground knowing a win will go a long way to securing the table-topping side a home semifinal while a loss throws that possibility wide open to the chasing bunch of Patumahoe Hotel, Karaka and Ardmore Marist themselves.
The visitors are coming off a tough run of matches and see this as the last major hurdle before the draw becomes a little more kind to them on the run to the semifinals – although Bombay coach Jeff Marr admits Waiuku Brian James Contracting and Pukekohe Mitre 10 Mega have improved significantly since the first round.
“It has been a tough one,” Marr said of the block of five games to open the second round.
“We are in a good position just at the moment. We had a few guys out last week and a few guys battling injuries and feeling a bit sore.
“There is one more week to go. Then we have some plans for the last four games so we kick into another stretch.”
Marr will have a pretty full roster to choose from this week with most players available for selection with the majority of his injury worries sitting out last week’s narrow win over Manurewa Kidd Contracting.
“We hope so – we should have some good depth to our team this week. We will need it,” Marr said.
“Ardmore, at home, are a pretty good side – they have a pretty good record there and have a good record against us and they knocked us over up at home and snuck away with that win there.
“We have a lot to play for.
“The boys won’t be lacking any motivation for this game whatsoever.”
Ardmore Marist were arguably the form team through the majority of the first round but lost their way a little right at the end and got tipped up last weekend by Pukekohe to lie in fourth place on the ladder.
Coach Saua Leaupepetele gets some injury relief this weekend but is putting emphasis on his players to stick to what they know.
“We have got a few boys that are back this week,” Leaupepetele said. “We still have a few out but three coming back is better than two so that will help us a lot.
“We have to stick to our game plan. It is all mental. We’ve had one whole round and it got us to where we are now – there might be a few small tweaks but it is pretty much the same plan.”
Leaupepetele will take a little confidence out of the first round win over Bombay but knows that won’t count for a lot on Saturday.
“You have to take a lot out of that but also be wary of the players they didn’t have that might be playing for them this weekend.
“We took five points so that is not an easy feat and we are back at home.”
His side has a tough run home – they will meet the three sides ahead of them on the ladder in the final five matches before the semifinals but Leaupepetele actually prefers a hard finish to the round robin.
“We have got players out coming back at the right time and it just prepares you in terms of the physical nature of what these teams bring.
“I’d rather be playing these sorts of tough games going into semifinal footy as opposed to teams at the other end of the table.”