Heartland Championship preview: round three

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Friday, September 7, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Buller opens up against Thames Valley in Westport, and the faithful would love to see more James Lash brilliance, which resulted in a solo try last weekend against King Country.

The Swamp Foxes have opted to start wing/fullback Lance Easton at loosehead prop, where he has seen some time in the opening fortnight.

Poverty Bay will be anxious to bounce back from a heavy loss in Timaru when it hosts Wanganui in Gisborne. The visitors had to weather some early heat from West Coast in Greymouth before prevailing 33-21. Last season Poverty Bay was more than competitive in this fixture, so the Wanganui coaching Jasons, Caskey and Hamlin, will have their charges on high alert.


East Coast will continue its search for a win, welcoming Wairarapa-Bush to Whakarua Park. The visitors are 0-2 and suffered a 32-44 home reverse to Thames Valley last weekend, but will take solace in a decent second half from which to build for this clash.

The Rams host the Old Golds at Taumarunui Domain and will have a decent shot at going 3-0 and extending their lead at the top of the table. Wing Dean Church, with a hat-trick, was the star turn for the Rams in the tight, 30-28, win against Buller in round two. North Otago will be buoyed by the extraordinary 34-33 win over Mid Canterbury, in which 93-game veteran Ralph Darling showed all his qualities, scoring a try and giving an assist.

The Hammers of Mid Canterbury, suitably chastened by the one-point home loss to North Otago, will be up for the clash against West Coast in a repeat of the 2017 Lochore Cup final. The home team will be wary of providing any counter-attacking opportunities, which North Otago seized upon. The Coasters pushed Wanganui hard, 21-33, in Greymouth and a sizzling second spell carried them to victory against Thames Valley in round one.
The final match of the round will be televised on Sunday. Horowhenua Kapiti, not for the first time, will play at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium as a curtainraiser to the Wellington-North Harbour clash.

It kicks off in the morning, so there may be some adjustment to the players’ eating patterns. However, one thing is certain. Horowhenua Kapiti CEO Corey Kennett will not be used, as he was, off the bench, in Ruatoria. The 47-year-old has kept himself in good nick playing senior reserves footy, and is the first CEO since Rob Penney in 1997 with the Marlborough Red Devils to appear in first-class rugby. Tainui Woodmass is over his throat infection and will partner captain Ryan Shelford in the second-row.

South Canterbury, the only team to win at home in round two, 40-11 over Poverty Bay, will again be seeking solid impact off the bench from nos. 16-23.

The match-ups:

Buller v Thames Valley

Saturday September 8, 1.30pm at Victoria Square, Westport
Referee: Hugh Reed (Hawke’s Bay)
Played: 15 (1984-2017)
Wins: Thames Valley 8, Buller 6, Drawn 1
Last match: Thames Valley 26 Buller 7 (September 16, 2017)

Poverty Bay v Wanganui
Saturday September 8, 2.30pm at More FM Rugby Park, Gisborne
Referee: Tipene Cottrell (Hawke’s Bay)
Played: 38 (1909-2017)
Wins: Wanganui 29, Poverty Bay 8, Drawn 1
Last match: Wanganui 25 Poverty Bay 14 (September 9, 2017)

East Coast v Wairarapa-Bush
Saturday September 8, 2.30pm at Whakarua Park, Ruatoria
Referee: Mike Fraser (Wellington)
Played: 18 (1976-2017)
Wins: Wairarapa-Bush 14, East Coast 4
Last match: Wairarapa-Bush 36 East Coast 10 (September 2, 2017)

King Country v North Otago
Saturday September 8, 2.30pm at Taumarunui Domain, Taumarunui
Referee: Damian McPherson
Played: 14 (1966-2017)
Wins: North Otago 7, King Country 6, Drawn 1
Last match: King Country 28 North Otago 26 (September 16, 2017)

Mid Canterbury v West Coast
Saturday September 8, 2.30pm at Ashburton Showgrounds, Ashburton
Referee: James Munro Canterbury)
Played: 38 (1952-2017)
Wins: Mid Canterbury 32, West Coast 4, Drawn 2
Last match: Mid Canterbury 47 West Coast 15 (October 29, 2017, LCF)

Horowhenua Kapiti v South Canterbury
Sunday September 9, 11.35am at Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Tim Griffiths (Manawatu)
Played: 26 (1958-2016)
Wins: South Canterbury 15, Horowhenua Kapiti 10, Drawn 1
Last match: South Canterbury 36 Horowhenua Kapiti 24 (October 1, 2016)