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Luisetti Seeds Division 1 Final
Lincoln meets Southbridge in the final of the Luisetti Seeds combined country competition at Lincoln this weekend in what promises to be a classic match-up.
Lincoln and Southbridge have not met in the competition this season as they were in different sections and as a result they do not know much about each other.
Lincoln co-coach Graham Hutchinson says his team has shown plenty of character in their quarter and semi-finals wins against West Melton and Methven.
“We have been unbeaten all season but what impressed me most in the last two weeks has been our attitude: we have been tested, especially up front, and we have managed to come through.”
Their 16-15 win against Methven last weekend was brutal. “The forward packs really tore into each other,” Graham says, “and it was a hell of a match”.
Graham says his side knows Southbridge will be up for the match. “They have been playing brilliantly and have been building nicely. We respect them and will not under-estimate them. It’s fitting the top two teams in each section are in the final.”
Graham says he is unsure whether his side are favourites. “If anything Southbridge was in the harder section: Three of the semi-finalists were from their section.”
Graham admits that playing the final at home will be an advantage. Still, home advantage does not deflect from what the red and blacks have to do to win. “We have got to turn up and play well: it’s really that simple.”
As Lincoln does not know too much about Southbridge, Graham says his side is focusing this week on what it can do. “I understand that they (Southbridge) have good backs and so our defence has got to be good. Games are in general won by good defences.”
Injuries remain a concern for Lincoln. The red and blacks have had to reply on bringing players up from its Division 2 and Colts side from time to time this season. Saturday is likely to be no different. “It’s a tribute to the depth within the club that we can do this,” Graham says.
At the time of writing it is unclear whether club legend Matt Lowe will play. “We will see who we have but if he does play a part in the final it will be from off the bench.”
Last season Lincoln demolished Methven in a devastating display of finals rugby. Graham says that performance has little relevance to Saturday’s final. “We are a much younger side this season and although we have some recent finals experience we know Southbridge will be hungry for their first title.”
The mood within the Southbridge camp is one of excitement ahead of their final with Lincoln in the Luisetti Seeds Division 1 competition this weekend.
Southbridge was one of the most successful clubs in Ellesmere in the 1960s and 1970s and while they have been on the steady improve recently, they have yet to won a major club title. Saturday presents their best chance.
Southbridge manager Chris McMillan says that his side is “over the moon” about making the final but it obviously does not want to stop there.
“We will be underdogs,” he admits, “and we know that playing Lincoln at Lincoln will be tough but we are excited by the challenge and we will be ready for it.”
Chris says his side’s 19-17 win against Darfield in their semi-final last weekend was testimony to his side’s character this season and their hard work.
Chris says that he has been delighted with the consistency that his side has shown throughout the season. “We lost our first match of the season and drew with Methven 13-13 but apart from that we have been consistent and that has been pleasing.”
Southbridge’s run in the competition has been a welcome tonic for club members and their community. “The clubrooms have been a great place to be,” Chris says. “The old-timers especially have waited a number of years for the club to get this far. I even received a text from Dan (Carter) on Saturday saying well done.”
The question for Southbridge now is how to beat a Lincoln side that has been the best country team in recent seasons and which thrashed Methven in the final last year? What’s more, beating Lincoln on Lincoln Domain?
“No comment,” Chris laughs. “We have a lot of respect for what they have done in recent seasons. They have been the benchmark and we are looking forward to playing them.”
As with Lincoln, injuries have been an ongoing concern for Southbridge. Shane Holmes is unlikely to play at the weekend while the side has other bumps and bruises from the weekend. Thankfully the club has developed a colts side that has provided reinforcements.
There will be a strong contingent of Southbridge supporters at Lincoln before, perhaps, heading into the city to go to the Test. “We really hope we can do our supporters proud at the weekend,” Chris says.
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