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PGG Wrightson Division 1 - Semi Finals Time
You might have learnt that Southbridge was in the semi-finals of the PGG Wrightson Combined competition in the build-up to the All Blacks vs. France Test on Saturday.
“Yes, it was good publicity,” Southbridge coach Nick Wilson says of club member Dan Carter’s announcement of the result on TV. It was also richly deserved, after Southbridge booked its spot with a 15-14 win against Oxford last weekend.
“It was hard-fought,” Nick says. “Our defence won us the game really, although there was nothing in it.”
Nick says that while some independent observers may have been surprised with Southbridge’s success so far this season, the team itself wasn’t.
“One of our goals was to make the quarter-finals and to progress from there. We always knew that we had the potential to do it and it was only really a case of us working hard to make it happen.”
Lincoln in a semi-final presents a different challenge, especially when you consider the recent outstanding achievements of the red and blacks.
“It will certainly be a tough game,” Nick says. “Because we haven’t played them this season, we don’t know too much about them, although we know that Lincoln is always a good side, especially at home.”
Lincoln coach Bob Kerr says that his side has plenty of respect for Southbridge which, like Lincoln itself, has so far only lost one match this season.
Lincoln earned their semi-finals spot with a reasonably comfortable 21-13 win against Methven, the scoreline inflated somewhat by a late Methven try.
“I was pleased with the way we played,” Bob says. “They (Methven) are a very good side and I thought we did well.” Fortunately for Lincoln they did not pick up any major injuries, suggesting that the red and blacks will be firing on all cylinders come the weekend.
This semi-final promises to be one of the best games in Country rugby this season. Southbridge has been perhaps the Cinderella story of the competition so far.
In lock (and sometimes front-rower) Jason Mitchell they have a genuine workhorse. In first five-eight Jason Henry they also have one of the brightest young talents in Country rugby.
Lincoln on the other hand is a special side. They have been to the submit of Country rugby a number of times before and they have seen the light on the other side of the mountain. With the likes of Matt Lowe (pictured top, playing for Ellesmere) and Jason Pietzner within their ranks, they are an outstanding unit.
On the other side of the track to the semi finals, Kaiapoi upset the form-book and booked its place in the semi-finals with a deserved 13-10 win against Waihora, last weekend.
The win now sees them take on their great foes Glenmark (who beat Darfield 25-7 in their quarter-final) at Omihi, this weekend in one semi-final.
“It’s exciting isn’t it,” Kaiapoi co-coach and player Geoff White says. “Playing Glenmark at any time is a great thrill, but going up to Omihi for a semi-final is doubly exciting.”
These two clubs often produce the most dramatic matches. Geoff points out that as recently as 1994 the Kaiapoi club travelled north and handsomely beat Glenmark. He knows that they can do it again.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s always tough, although I know that if we can get our hands on the ball then we are in with a chance.
“What Glenmark do very well is that they don’t give you the ball. They will hang on to it and this means that you have very few opportunities.”
Geoff says that he knows that his side will have a good attitude going in to the match and he says that this was the reason why they beat Waihora last weekend.
“We never wrote ourselves off. We were up 13-3 in the first half and we defended very well. The fact that their try was through an intercept shows you how good our defence was.”
Holding on to the ball is another key objective for Kaiapoi this weekend. “If we can get our share of possession then I am confident that we can win,” Geoff says.
Geoff says that his side is eagerly looking forward to travelling north and taking on one of the powerhouses of the club game in Canterbury. “In recent seasons they (Glenmark) have had an awe about them. We have got to put that to one side and play our own game.”
Glenmark coach Hugh Murchison says that his side is also eagerly looking forward to the match. “This competition has turned into one of the best around this season and I think part of the reason is because of the weather.”
Hugh says that he was delighted with his team’s win against highly-rated Darfield last weekend and that his pack “really fronted up” on the day.
“We have been doing a lot of work on our set piece and our scrum was especially good.”
Although Glenmark beat Kaiapoi 33-17 in the round-robin, Hugh says that Kaiapoi did much better in the second half of that match than what they did in the first and that his side is taking nothing for granted this weekend.
“If you look at their (Kaiapoi’s) results you will see that they have done really well. They beat Methven 19-14, while they easily beat a pretty decent Prebbleton side.”
Although Glenmark will start as favourites, don’t write off Kaiapoi. Any side that can travel away from home and beat Waihora is a side capable of beating any team in the competition this season.
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