Puketoi have withdrawn from the Wairarapa-Bush premier division competition for the rest of the season.
The decision was taken at a special meeting in Pongaroa on Tuesday night and was prompted by a shortage of players, a situation which had already forced them to default matches against Marist and Featherston.
Coach Jamie Fowler had earlier intimated it would take a near miracle for Puketoi to avoid going into recess with at least an extra five or six players required to make the side viable.
"There was no option but to pull out, the numbers just aren't there," Fowler told the Times-Age yesterday morning. "We've done all we can to keep battling away but without the players you can't do anything, can you?"
Fowler's sentiments were supported by perhaps Puketoi's most famous player, former All Black Brett Harvey, these days the club secretary.
Harvey was playing for Featherston when chosen for the "Baby Blacks" against France in 1986 but played many matches in the Puketoi colours after they graduated to the top tier of Wairarapa-Bush club rugby in the early 1990s.
"It's not the first time we have struggled for numbers but it's worse now than ever before, we had to pull the plug,"Harvey said, adding that for now the decision to go into recess was for one season only.
"We're still working on the basis we will back in 2012 but obviously we're going to need an influx of new players between now and then and the odds on that happening are probably not too good."
Just what Puketoi's withdrawal will do to the format of the premier division competition for the rest of the first round won't be officially decided by the WBFRU council of clubs until early next week, but indications are that two byes could be in operation until that round is concluded, and the 10 teams left in the premier division grade are divided into two pools of five for the main championship.
East Coast and Pioneer have emerged as the front runners for the Chris Kapene Memorial Cup which goes to the leading team at the end of one complete round of matches. East Coast are yet to taste defeat and are sitting on 22 points while Pioneer have had the one loss but are just 2pts in arrears on 20 through having picked up four bonus points. Then come Marist 17, Eketahuna 14, Gladstone 12, Martinborough 10, Carterton 9, Greytown 8, Masterton Red Star 5, Featherston 5 and Puketoi 0.
This week's premier division draw is (note one game tonight and another tomorrow):-
Greytown v Gladstone at Gladstone, tonight at 7pm: The form book says Gladstone should win comfortably but Greytown did enough in their one-point defeat by Marist last weekend to suggest they could make a nuisance of themselves. Both sides like to move the ball around so some entertaining fare can be anticipated. Referee is Shay O'Gorman.
Marist v Carterton at Memorial Park, Saturday at 2.30pm: This could be a defining moment for Marist as far as their Kapene Cup aspirations are concerned. They need to beat Carterton to stay in the reckoning but the maroons will be hurting from a big loss to Pioneer last time out and keen to show just why they are the defending champions. A cliff-hanger is in prospect. Referee is Scott Andrew.
Martinborough v Featherston at Martinborough, tomorrow at 2.30pm: The home side will start as firm favourites and, while anything less than a handy win to them would be a huge surprise, they wouldn't want to under-rate the physical capabilities of the Featherston forwards. If they are allowed to work up a full head of steam watch out. Referee is Goff Moorcock.
Pioneer v Masterton Red Star at Jean Street grounds in Masterton, Saturday at 2.30pm: You can never under-estimate the extra fire in the belly created by a local derby so while Masterton Red Star will be the rank underdogs this could be a lot closer than most pundits would predict. They are sure to take Pioneer on up front and will be doing themselves a big favour if they can restrict the flow of quality ball to the pacy Pioneer backs. Referee is Tom Roseingrave.
The draw for other matches played on Saturday is:-
Women's premier: Eketahuna v Marist St Pats, Eketahuna at 1pm (G Reisima).
Manawatu colts: Eketahuna v Te Kawau, Eketahuna at 12 noon (P Weeks); WB BaaBaas v OB Marist, Memorial Park at 1pm (A Payne).