Devon Rd residents can expect a maze of traffic and a mighty roar from the Country Club if Kaierau beats Marist by scoring at least four tries on Saturday afternoon.
It is Old Timers' and Sponsor's Day for Wanganui Car Centre-sponsored Kaierau and five points from Dave Hoskin Carriers Marist will clinch the first round championship title for the hosts as well as retention of the Grand Hotel Challenge Shield.
Although co-leaders Waverley Harvesting Border currently hold a superior points differential (plus 99) than Kaierau (83) the first round honours (Paul Mitchell Cup and Grand Café and Eatery $500 voucher) is decided on who beats who in the qualifying round between the two teams if they are equal on championship points.
The top two sides have 15 points each but Kaierau's 19-12 home win over Border on July 11, the first success at the Country Club in more than a quarter of a century, will decide the Mitchell Cup holders if the maroons can pick up a five pointer this weekend.
It would be the first time that Kaierau has won the trophy since 2005 when Tupae Pati (178 points), Asalemo Malo (160) and Pati Fetuiai (135) were such dominant players.
Remarkably evergreen Malo is still a key player/co-coach for Kaierau, scoring a try in helping his club retain the Challenge Shield 34-14 last weekend against McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu
Kaierau also won the Mitchell Cup in 2004, going through the season unbeaten with 18 victories, thanks to the scoring feats of the rep trio of Tupae Pati (244 pts), Jerry Meafou (105) and Akapusi Qera (100).
Saturday is the fifth and final set of first round qualifying matches and the halfway stage in the 2020 Tasman Tanning-sponsored competition.
Three clubs are in the running to claim the first trophy of the season – Kaierau and Border (15 pts each) and defending overall champions Byford's Readimix Taihape (14).
On form Kaierau (home to Marist), Border (hosting Settlers Honey Ngamatapouri) and Taihape (away to Ruapehu) should win but scoring maximum five points victories will decide the Mitchell Cup.
Kaierau will win the trophy with a five pointer, 2017 holders Border will win with maximum points if Kaierau fails to pick up four tries and 2018 first round holders Taihape have a chance with maximum points in Ohakune depending on results in Wanganui and Waverley.
Taihape has featured in one point margin clashes against both Kaierau (winning 6-5 away thanks to missed easy opposition goal kicks) and at home against Border (losing 17-18 when conceding a last minute try).
Last Saturday Kaierau managed a comfortable 34-14 victory over winless Ruapehu while this weekend's opponents Marist were thrashed 79-19 at Dallison Park – the heaviest defeat in 98 games since losing 7-83 away to unbeaten champions Ruapehu in 2013.
Metropolitan champions Kaierau completed a double against Marist in the same season last year – 29-27 at home and 35-31 at Spriggens Park in two closely contested matches – to open up a 18 to 15 winning margin in games since 2000.
Highest winning scores since the turn of the century have been by champion winnings teams – 100-8 away by Kaierau in 2005, (the last time the club won the title), and 57-10 at home by Marist in 2000.
Marist's sole win this season was 30-23 at home to bottom of the table Ruapehu and it will require a real team effort from a side that has conceded an average of 35 points per outing to break Kaierau's hearts on Saturday.
Pre-match favourites Kaierau has scored 19 tries this year including 11 against Ngamatapouri who beat Marist 21-16 on opening day.
Ngamatapouri, a team with a ton of unorthodox attacking ability, has lost all five previous games against Border, including by 102-7 away in 2018, and could struggle again at Dallison Park this time.
With cousins Vereniki Tikoisolomone (6 tries) and newcomer Alekesio Vakororongo (3) in form and half back Lindsay Horrocks scoring in all four matches, Border has collected 28 tries this year, 23 of them at the expense of bottom sides Ruapehu and Marist.
Although Ruapehu holds a healthy 28-22 overall winning record against Taihape during the new millennium, Taihape has collected six scalps since 2015 including 22-16 at home in last year's semifinals.
Taihape has stayed in the top three so far this campaign with some very tightly contested games and could find struggling but determined defending Northern Wanganui domestic champions Ruapehu difficult to de-throne, especially at Rochfort Park.
With an outside chance of winning the Mitchell Cup, however, Taihape has every incentive to succeed but badly needs a five pointer.
Top teams clash
To add extra early spice at the Devon Road Country Club on Saturday the top two unbeaten teams in the senior championship, Marist Celtic and Kaierau, provide the 1pm curtain-raiser.
Celtic has been in sizzling form, scoring 196 points and conceding only three, compared with 159 for and 35 against by the hosts against the same opposition.
Kaierau has the benefit of a few talented premier squad members plus a home ground and supporters.
The records of the two sides this season points to a very even match –
Celtic – Beat Border 59-0 away, Buffalos 43-3 home, Pirates 51-0 home, Counties 43-0 away.
Kaierau – Beat Border 25-13 home, Buffalos 36-14 away, Pirates 52-5 home, Counties 31-7 away.
Celtic has a maximum 20 points and Kaierau 19 with Harvey Round Motors Ratana the other unbeaten team on 14 pts but with a game in hand.
Ratana travels to Hunterville (6 pts) to defend the Stihl Shop Wanganui Challenge Shield.
Fourth-placed Utiku OB (8 pts) meet bottom of the table Speirs Food Marton (1 pt) on Marton Park, Border and Counties (both 5 pts) play at Waverley, Buffalos (6pts) and Pirates (3) meet at Spriggens Park and defending champions Taihape (7pts) have the bye.
Ton of experience
There are 48 Wanganui representative players, 22 forwards and 26 backs, included in the in the six squads playing in the Tasman Tanning 2020 local premier club championship.
Waverley Harvesting Border (11) and Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau (10) have the largest number of Steelform Heartland rep players listed in their squads.
The most capped reps are Kaierau utility back Asalemo Malo with 85 matches for the union between 2004 and 2017, Border halfback Lindsay Horrocks (70), Border lock Sam Madams (60) and Marist stand-by three quarter Simon Dibben (54).
The earliest capped player is versatile Ruapehu utility Andrew Evans, who plays either in the forwards or as a fill-in back at club level. He made his rep debut in 2003 and retired 11 years later after 49 games for the union.
Evans retired from club play at the end of last season but has taken the field again this year, at fullback, to help his club out.
Malo, who is also a Kaierau coach, had his first game for Wanganui in 2004 and his last 14 years later in 2017.
The two oldest ex-reps playing this club season are 39-year-olds Ace Malo and Marist inside back Ricky Alabaster who has played for a range of clubs during his career.
The following is a run-down of known Wanganui representative players (and their rep games and years of play) in the six 2020 premier club squads –
Border (11 reps) –
Backs: Craig Clare (28 2016-19), Nick Harding (22 2012-19), Lindsay Horrocks (70 2013-19), Tom Symes (4 2018-19), Vereniki Tikoisolomone (10 2019).
Forwards: Jack Hodges (2 2018-19), Kampeli Latu (42 2014-19), Sam Madams (60 2009-19), Hamish Mellow (21 2016-17), Angus Middleton (26 2017-19), Ranato Tikoisolomone (19 2015-19),
Kaierau 10) –
Backs – Cameron Davies (2 2019), Asalemo Malo (85 (2004-17), Karl Pascoe (2 2019), Ethan Robinson (17 2017-19), Shandon Scott (6 2018), Clive Stowers (4-2014).
Forwards – Joe Edwards (3 2019), Josh Lance (11 (2017-19), Cade Robinson (3 – 2017), Lasa Ulukuta (29 2009-14).
Marist (6) –
Backs – Ricky Alabaster (21 2006-10), Josaia Bogileka (2 2019), Simon Dibben (54 2011-18).
Forwards – Brad Graham (3 2012), Viki Tofa (45 2014-18), Jack Yarrall (11 2016-18).
Ngamatapouri (3) –
Backs – Timoci Sewuwalu (9 2017).
Forwards – Bryn Hudson (40 2014-19), Samu Kubunavanua.
Backs – Troy Brown (15 2015-19), Corey Carmichael (5 2008), Josh Fifita (4 2018). Aaron Paranihi (7 2008).
Forwards – Andrew Evans (49 2003-13), Gabriel Hakaraia (24 2016-19), Campbell Hart (33 2016-19), Jamie Hughes (38 2016-19), Kim McNaught (8 2013).
Taihape (7) –
Backs – Jaye Flaws (9 2014), Tyler Rogers-Holden (17 2018-19), Dane Whale (46 2014-19).
Forwards – Wiremu Cottrell (13 2018-19), Dylan Gallien (13 2918-19)
Tremaine Gilbert (46 2011-18), Tom Wells (3 2012-13).