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PGG Wrightson Division 1 - Finals Weekend
Lincoln takes on Glenmark in the final of the PGG Wrightson Country Cup this weekend at Lincoln in one of the most eagerly awaited club matches in years.
Around 12 months ago Lincoln travelled to Glenmark without its charismatic loose forward Matt Lowe and it went down narrowly to the North Canterbury powerhouse of rugby. This season they get their revenge.
“We don’t really see it as getting revenge,” their coach Bob Kerr says. “That was last year. We were in that match right until the last 10 minutes and we were missing Matt (Lowe). Still, we have no regrets.”
The Lincoln players would not be human, however, if they did not think about that final loss last season. After all, it was remarkably close. The advantage they have this season is not only the availability of Matt Lowe, but the fact that this final will be played on their home turf.
“We are delighted to be in the final again this year,” Bob says. “I thought we had the semi-final (against Southbridge, won 26-3) won by the last 15 minutes, but to be fair to them they had two or three players out with injury and that made a difference.”
Bob says that Lincoln won their semi-final because of the penetration of their ball-runners and the way the red and blacks were able to stop Southbridge’s momentum.
“I was extremely pleased with the way we played,” Bob says. “They are an extremely good side to coach and they are putting in so much effort.”
Lincoln is very excited about getting another crack at Glenmark. “It’s telling that the two best sides in the competition have got through to the final,” Bob says. “We are very much looking forward to the match and being able to play the final at home.”
Bob says that he has researched Glenmark, mainly through talking to other coaches who have played them. “They are a very good side and their strength is certainly up front. If you can stop them there, you have a chance.”
Glenmark knows that Lincoln desperately wants to win the PGG Wrightson Country Cup this season.
The reigning champions know that their win last year against the red and blacks was special but that they are going to have to play even better to beat an extremely motivated Lincoln side at home.
“It’s the ideal final isn’t it?” Glenmark coach Hugh Murchison says. “The two section winners squaring off is what you want. We have a lot of respect for Bob Kerr and his side and we are expecting a huge match.”
Glenmark booked its place in this weekend’s final with a 29-12 win against a committed Kaiapoi side.
“They (Kaiapoi) played well,” Hugh says. “What won it for us, however, was the platform that our forwards provided. Our front five has been playing really well and they again stood up last Saturday.”
Hugh also pays tribute to 22-year-old back Brad Hazeldean, who scored two tries and had a very strong match. “He’s a Southland boy and he has continued to go from strength to strength as the season has continued.”
Hugh says that Glenmark is taking nothing for granted as it prepares for the final. “We know that we have a few things to work on and we will be addressing those during the week. We are, however, looking forward to the challenge of playing Lincoln at home.”
Hugh admits that playing away from home is tougher than playing at home. “When you are playing at home everything is familiar and you know the conditions much better. We know Saturday won’t be easy”
That said, he says that is not fair to compare the challenge of last season’s final at home with the final on Saturday. “They are different seasons obviously but we know that Lincoln will be fully prepared and that they will throw everything at us.”
With Ryan Nesbitt back from injury and getting onto the field in the semi-final last weekend and with Brooke Retallick a possibility also, Glenmark should be near-on full strength for this huge encounter.
“We know that our strength has been up front. That said, teams have tried to stop us by pulling our mauls down. Southbridge did that very well when we played them. One of the keys for us is to try and get around that.”
Hugh says that while Glenmark normally trains only once a week, both last week and this they will also train on Tuesdays. “Tuesday will be more social, although it will be a good way to keep the boys focused on the final.”
Hugh says that he hopes the weather will be good on Saturday and that it will allow both teams to play attractive rugby and keep the expected big crowd entertained.
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