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Ellesmere Power Houses Make Country Final
If the final of the Luisetti Seeds Combined Country final between Waihora and Southbridge is anything like the semi-finals last weekend then Country rugby fans are in for a treat.
Waihora and Southbridge have developed an amazing rivalry in recent seasons: the clubs have met in the last two Coleman Shield finals in Ellesmere and have arguably been the two best clubs in the combined competition this season. Then there is the fact that Southbridge has not won the combined competition since back to back titles in 2012-13 and Waihora will be playing in their third combined Country final in-a-row.
All the above factors make Saturday's final potentially thrilling, regardless of the gripping way that both clubs made the final. Waihora needed a late Harry Kirk penalty to beat Glenmark 27-25 at Tai Tapu after being behind for most of the match. Southbridge on the other hand won its semi-final with a late converted Max Lum try to beat Rakaia 26-23.
Given the drama of the semi-finals, both finalists had to take a deep breath last Sunday and refocus ahead of this Saturday's final. What is certain is that regardless of who wins next weekend they will create their own history in many respects.
Waihora coach Joff Mooar says that his side has showed plenty of ticker in recent weeks; not only in its semi-final last weekend but in its quarter-final against Burnham Dunsandel/Irwell the week before. He says that his side has not any new injuries but it had previously lost Geoff Beaumont (ankle) and Chris Keening (knee) with longer-term injuries.
Captained this season by hooker Will Hurst, Waihora will not be fazed by playing at Southbridge at the weekend. "We narrowly lost to Methven in the final last year on the road and so travelling is not an issue for us," Joff says.
Joff says his side is excited to be in another combined Country final rather than focusing on the fact that this is the third final in-a-row (they lost to Methven last season and Lincoln in 2014). "We want to go one better this season."
Southbridge has not won the Combined Country competition for three years and as a result it is hungry for success. "We have had quite a rivalry with Waihora in the last couple of seasons and no doubt another chapter will be written on Saturday," their manager Chris McMillan says.
Southbridge will be without star back Willie McGoon with a finger injury but it will take confidence in coming from behind to beat Rakaia in the so-called 'Battle of the Bridge' last weekend.
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