Brought to you by the Wanganui Rugby Union
They have much to do and less time to do it in, but both St John's Club Wanganui Metro teams are hoping to reach their goals for the shortened Manawatū club rugby seasons, heading into Saturday's second round.
Aiming to win back the Manawatū Colts title their predecessors claimed in 2018, the Metro Men's team had the perfect start on Saturday after steamrolling Feilding Old Boys 62-8.
And after their historic first competition game together, a 24-0 loss to Massey, the Wanganui Metro Women don't believe it's outside the realm of possibility to make the Top 4 of the Prue Christie Cup.
But every competition point will count in both their six-team grades, as due to the Covid-19 shutdown delays, there will only be one round of games – five matches each – to qualify for the semifinals.
Wanganui Men's co-coach Mark Cosford is hoping last year's semifinal appearance in what was a rebuilding season will hold his 28-man squad in good stead; especially given perennial favourites Massey are not represented this year.
"Massey have had to pull out – both their White and Ag teams. They're not fully back at school yet.
"It's a bit of a shame, really."
Metro have farewelled three 2019 players to the Kaierau Senior team, but still have a solid array of talent, as debutant Francisco Field scored a hat-trick last Saturday, while Heartland Hurricanes Under 20's representative Jack O'Leary got a double.
"They've got a year under their belt to know what they're about," said Cosford of the side, which includes his own son returning from Massey.
"We'll have a gauge of what they're doing against the better team this week."
Feilding Yellows Colts won the title last year, but have had a tough start to the 2020 campaign with a 21-19 loss to Dannevirke Sports Club.
Cosford knows the Yellows will bring everything on Saturday, as losing both opening games in a five-match competition could make playoff qualification a very difficult proposition.
"We don't have a chance to redeem [a loss]. That's why these bonus points are so important."
Hoping to see a better turnout for Thursday training than the dozen who attended on Tuesday, Metro Women's coach Tama Te Patu wants his side to hit the ground running faster against Bush Sports Club on Saturday.
Down 17-0 at halftime with Massey, Metro conceded only one more try in the second stanza, but could not find a way to get on the scoreboard themselves.
"Our girls have got to learn to be more committed with what they do," said Te Patu.
"Twelve girls can carry three [learners], but three can't carry 12.
"We can't get back to real basics, because we're in the middle of a competition.
"We'll make it as simple as possible for them.
"They're just waiting for someone else to move, we don't have playmakers as such."
Te Patu, a very experienced coach at Whanganui representative level and club level, both here and in Manawatū for the men's and women's game, is happy with the way Metro are coming together but needs them to lift further against once of his old teams – Bush Sports Club.
It gives him no added encouragement that Bush got hammered 72-0 in their season opener against Feilding Old Boys-Oroua.
"I said to them, 'don't take any notice of that score', because I knew they've still got some good players in there, and they had played one of the best teams."
The draw seems to favour his brand-new squad in that their following opponent is Linton RC, who got rolled 65-3 by Kia Toa RFC, suggesting it is best that Metro play their fellow minnows before taking on the big girls.
"We've got to make the most of these two games," said Te Patu, adding it could be possible to get a look-in at the Top 4 if results go their way.
With a shortened Manawatū season, both Metro teams are looking at other game options following the campaigns.
There are three Taranaki clubs with women's teams who Te Patu would like to face, while Cosford is hoping to arrange with the WRFU to play Senior clubs in the bye weeks of their nine-team competition, given Metro already had preseason matches against Marist Celtic (a loss) and Pirates (a win).
"It's about giving all these guys the most game time we can," Cosford said.
On Saturday, the Metro Men will be home at Cooks Gardens for a 1pm kickoff, while the Women travel to Pahiatua for their 1pm clash.