CHRISTCHURCH (6th) v NEW BRIGHTON (5th) at Christchurch Park
1st Round Result: Christchurch 17-16
Simple equation here, win and you give yourself a shot at making the Top 4, lose and you’re out. Christchurch have been boosted with the return of Dallas McLeod from NZ U20 duty starting at second-five and Kieran Coll from injury earlier than expected. Nathan Evans and Matthew Brabazon also come in for Jordan Jackett and Hamish Kilpatrick who will start from the bench. Nick Annear will start on the wing for Burns Mills while McLeod will replace Lumafale LuaLua.
New Brighton have made just one change to the side that were beaten in the try-less match against Shirley last week with Lou Harmon coming onto the bench for Keegan Fairless who drops out of the matchday squad.
LINCOLN UNIVERSITY (3rd) v SHIRLEY (2nd) at Lincoln Uni
1st Round Result: Lincoln Uni 26-14
Lincoln are under immense pressure, needing a win to secure a semi-final berth and put themselves in a position to defend their title. They have rung the changes, five in the forward pack, including the entire front row, and one in the backline. One change of note is positional as Rameka Poihipi shifts into first-five to direct play.
Barring freak results, Shirley will be playing semi-final football for the first time in 24 years. The Vikings have kept the same matchday squad that kept New Brighton from crossing their line last weekend.
OLD BOYS (1st) v MARIST-ALBION (4th) at Bob Deans
1st Round Result: Marist Albion 18-14
Old Boys are starting to look dangerous. They have strung together back-to-back wins including a huge win against the defending champions last weekend. They have resisted making too many changes. Two in the forwards and one in the backs. Sam Lester comes off the bench to start while Aron Einarsson comes into the starting XV. Will Hamilton starts at halfback replacing Kurt Polson who drops out of the squad.
This one is a virtual quarter final for Marist. The DCL Holders knowing that only a win will secure them a semi-final spot, a loss and they will likely miss the cut. Josh Manning comes in for Filipo Veamatahau at lock. A couple of positional changes in the backline, Reilly Cormack is back which shifts Elliott Smith to centre, and Logan Murphy will move from wing to fullback.
SYDENHAM (1st) v SUMNER (5th) at Sydenham Park
1st Round Result: Sumner 28-22
Sydenham have maximum points during phase two and are guaranteed a middle four semi-final. Marc Gibbons will start at hooker and celebrate his 50th match, replacing Brodie McAllister. Only two other changes, with William Morris-Whyte and Josh Lindsay in for Zion Tauamiti and Derek Stowers, respectively.
Sumner will need to play their best football to have a shot at knocking off Sydenham who are on an impressive winning streak lasting five games. The Wave have changed both locks with Tom Manley and Josh Loader replaced by Max Kenneddy and Heikovan Zwieten. Albert O’Shannessey is replaced by Hamish McLauchlan at No.7. Josh Toy replaces Ben Shaw in the backline which will see Poasa Kama move from fullback to wing
BELFAST (4th) v LINWOOD (3rd) at Sheldon Park
1st Round Result: Linwood 45-20
Both teams are destined for a bottom four semi-final barring an upset at Burnside Park. If University can beat the Bombers the winner of this game will go through to a middle-four clash.
Belfast have only made three changes, all of which come in the forwards. Elama Touli, Luke Waller and Corey McKenzie all start with Melvin Pauni, Ben Watts and Toafa Touli all dropping out of the squad.
Linwood have made three changes in their forward pack leading to positional changes in the forward pack while the backline will remain unchanged from last weekends win.
BURNSIDE (2nd) v UNIVERSITY (6th) at Burnside Park
1st Round Result: Burnside 81-10
Burnside just need to win to secure a middle-four semi-final. The matchday squad looks to be the same as last weekend although seven changes have been made to the starting XV, four in the forward pack with three in the backline. The experience of Phil Henderson and Mitch Cooke in the back row for Burnside will be huge.
It looks like UC were employing the stealth tactics with no team in at the time of writing this.
WORDS: Glenn Matthews
Image: Rachel Briggs