Heartland Championship preview: round six

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Thursday, September 27, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Winless but with six bonus points, Buller is using Robbie Malneek at centre now that James Lash is back in harness at No 10. Last weekend the Rundle Cup was narrowly lost, 28-34, to West Coast, but the pack will need to front to contain the vaunted Butcher Boys eight.

Wanganui is 5-0 and sits atop the log after clinching the Sir Colin Meads Memorial Trophy for the 36-19 win over previously undefeated King Country. Captain Campbell Hart gratefully accepted the prize from Stan Meads after his men had scored some nice tries in Te Kuiti. Lindsay Horrocks and Craig Clare are striking up a good 9-10 partnership for Wanganui.

This fixture is, of course, a replay of the epic 2016 Meads Cup final, in which Wanganui, now the three-time defending champion, edged Buller 20-18.

West Coast is sixth on points differential after edging a typically tight Rundle Cup clash, and travels to North Otago, who fell 43-21 to Thames Valley. The Coasters have played some good code this season and a win will move them into Meads Cup calculations. The Old Golds, however, will be desperate to win and keep their Lochore Cup hopes alive.

Horowhenua Kapiti could do with some more Timoci Serewalu brilliance as it suits up in Paraparaumu, another venue for the union’s 125th celebrations. Serewalu’s double helped his team to a 37-21 win over Wairarapa-Bush and now it must subdue the Rams on the rebound from its first defeat. Rams captain Carl Carmichael will line up at tighthead prop, shifting across from loosehead. He will be after a continuation of the strong second half against Wanganui.
Seventh-placed Wairarapa-Bush will have its work cut out hosting second-placed South Canterbury. Working off another stable scrum platform, South Canterbury looked the goods in dispatching Mid Canterbury 41-10 for the Hanan Shield. Fullback Rico Syme certainly looked the goods, with two tries on debut.

Mid Canterbury will be favoured to swiftly bounce back when hosting East Coast. A victory will keep the Hammers firmly in the Lochore Cup mix. The Ngati Porou side was far more competitive in the 19-26 defeat to Poverty Bay, racing to an early 14-0 lead. The final reward was its first bonus point of the season.

Thames Valley is playing so well – executing set-piece tries and playing with confidence – that Meads Cup qualification is well within its grasp. So it will need to win well in Gisborne against a Poverty Bay outfit that needed a late Mario Counsell intercept try to edge neighbour East Coast.

The match-ups:

North Otago v West Coast

Saturday September 29, 2.30pm at Whitestone Contracting Stadium, Oamaru
Referee: Angus Mabey (Auckland)
Played: 40 (1949-2017)
Wins: North Otago 22, West Coast 18
Last match: West Coast 24 North Otago 14 (October 21, 2017, LCSF)

Horowhenua Kapiti v King Country
Saturday September 29, 2.30pm at Paraparaumu Domain
Referee: Richard Kelly (Taranaki)
Played: 30 (1924-2016)
Wins: King Country 17, Horowhenua Kapiti 11, Drawn 1
Last match: King Country 42 Horowhenua Kapiti 18 (September 24, 2016)

Wanganui v Buller
Saturday September 29, 2.30pm at Cooks Gardens, Whanganui
Referee: Michael Winter (Waikato)
Played: 24 (1907-2016)
Wins: Wanganui 18, Buller 6
Last match: Wanganui 20 Buller 18 (October 29, 2016, MCF)

Wairarapa-Bush v South Canterbury
Saturday September 29, 2.30pm at Trust House Memorial Park, Masterton
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (North Harbour)
Played: 26 (1972-2017)
Wins: South Canterbury 15, Wairarapa-Bush 9, Drawn 2
Last match: South Canterbury 29 Wairarapa-Bush 20 (October 7, 2017)

Mid Canterbury v East Coast
Saturday September 29, 2.30pm at Ashburton Showgrounds, Ashburton
Referee: Hugh Reed (Hawke’s Bay)
Played: 18 (1991-2016)
Wins: Mid Canterbury 14, East Coast 4
Last match: Mid Canterbury 76 East Coast 22 (October 1, 2016)

Poverty Bay v Thames Valley
Saturday September 29, 2.30pm at More FM Rugby Park, Gisborne
Referee: James Munro (Canterbury)
Played: 51 (1931-2017)
Wins: Poverty Bay 31, Thames Valley 20
Last match: Poverty Bay 35 Thames Valley 34 (October 14, 2017)