Friday night rugby kicks off round 8
Varsity and Freyberg will kick off round eight of McDonalds Manawatu Senior One Club Rugby in a rare Friday night fixture.
For Varsity, it represents a prime opportunity to make some ground on the top four after a disappointing season to date which has seen them bank three wins from six matches.
Freyberg, on the other hand, are circling and will be looking to pick up their first win of the season.
They have had good service out of their younger crop of players this year with the likes of No 8 Tom Finlay, lock Trevor Shane Baker and midfielder Joshua Maoate, who have all been rewarded with a call up to the Manawatu Under 19s wider training group.
But Varsity have some named a tough side for the clash with Nick Grogan set for his first start of the season.
They are missing Kirk Tufuga at No 8, but have the exciting Michael Halatuituia in his place.
At first five-eighth, Cody Hemi has recovered from injury and will make his second start of the season.
The match of the round will come of Saturday when table-toppers College Old Boys travel to second-placed Feilding Yellows.
COB need just one bonus point from the match to lock up the Jubilee Cup before their bye in the final round.
Te Anini Pardoe’s return at flanker sees in-form Zane Te Rangi shift to lock which leaves them with a very mobile forward pack.
The key battle will be up front with the COB front row of Adam Coll, Cory Purton and Gene Syminton facing a big task in the form of Yellows’ Sean Rankin, Harry Jones and Luke Clarke.
In the backs, there are two Turbos prospects at halfback in Michael Walsh and Griffin Culver, contracted Ben Wyness and academy player Stewart Cruden at first five-eighth meaning there will be plenty of interest in the halves.
Old Boys-Marist and Kia Toa need a win to finish the weekend inside the top four.
Neither side have looked in convincing form over the last couple of weeks, so it is a good opportunity for them to right the ship.
But both are also missing a host of key players.
OBM can at least celebrate the return of their top loose forward trio with Matene Ruawai, Rhys Pedersen and Benedict Grant packing down together for the first time this season.
In the backs, Hayden Hill has been given at shot at first five-eighth, while brother Nathan Hill will start at prop in place of Josh Greer (suspended).
Kia Toa have Michael Tagicakibau at centre this week as they try and get the 2018 Turbo more involved in the game, while Keaton Kawana is one to watch on the wing after being a standout in last weekend’s win over Te Kawau.
Linton Army have managed to name a relatively stable starting XV featuring key players like Harry Black, Dominic Broadhead, Jimmy Bergham, TeJay Oliver, Don Hira and Jaxon Tagavaitau.
J Greer (Old Boys Marist) – Offence: 9.26 A player must not do anything against the spirit of good sportsmanship (spitting at anyone); Suspension: Three-week suspension, up to and including Saturday 19th May 2019.
S Exeter (Bush) – Offence: 9.13 A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously; Suspension: Seven-week suspension, up to and including Saturday 8th June 2019.