It will be a huge weekend in the Canstaff Metro Premier Competition on Saturday with several teams facing probable elimination from any chance of making the semi-finals.
Sydenham sit in fourth place on 25 points and are in the box seat to secure a post-season playoff spot although New Brighton, Burnside, Shirley, University, Old Boys and Linwood are all still in with a sniff of snatching a top four spot should they end the season well. With that in mind there are some huge matchups that may well half the number of teams that still have hope.
It will be a huge day at Ilam Fields with the Women’s Premiership Final between University and Christchurch scheduled for 1pm as a curtain raiser to the DCL Shield challenge match between Sydenham (holders) and a young University side.
The students know they must win to keep the dream alive although coach Nigel Smith could be any prouder of what his team have achieved in season 2020. “Its fantastic. Every week individually and as a team you can see them growing and I am proud of where we are going. I am really looking forward to see what we can achieve this season then next season is a big one for us.”
Smith admitted the DCL hadn’t yet come into the thinking for his side although he expects that will be briefly spoken about at Thursday training but the team were more focused on playing to their potential but was under no illusions how tough Sydenham would be.
Shun Miyake has impressed his coach this season when deputising for Fergus Burke. “He is having an awesome year. He is confident in the carry and reads the game well, backs his boot, he is methodical. There demands of those around him, demands the forwards to be in position and do what he says, he has a lot of confidence without being cocky.” Smith puts a lot of Miyake’s confidence down to Patrick Osborne who took the young five-eight under his arm when he first came into the squad. Blair Murray will give the squad a boost with the fullback expected to return from a two-week layoff.
Sydenham coach, Sid Taumiti was looking forward to returning to his old stomping ground where he was part of the coaching setup for six years. “I have a wee soft spot for the Vipers. I’m excited. It will be nice to go back to Ilam Fields, even nicer to walk away with the win.”
While Taumiti was happy with how his team were tracking they hadn’t achieved the goal yet. “We are obviously in fourth at the moment and got a little bit of a scare last week after a really good run so now we are trying to consolidate that run and build on it. We sat down after winning the DCL as a group and identified as a group with over the next four weeks we need to get better every week and that would put us in a good position for any post-season competition that we qualify for.”
When asked if they could identify any potential area to attack the opposition both Smith and Taumiti were full of praise for the quality of their opposition all over the park preferring to focus on getting their own game right.
Dan Fransen is expected to start at fullback. Fransen is top of the tryscoring chart with eight, including the last minute try last weekend that helped rescue a draw for Sydenham. The NZ Sevens Rep is dangerous from broken play and will be one to watch. Harry Allan is gone for the season requiring a knee reconstruction with no news yet on Crusader Brodie McAllister’s involvement for his club this weekend. Trent Lawn and Caleb Aperahama are both in line to meet their former team-mates.
New Brighton (5th ) v Linwood (10th) at Rawhiti Domain
The Ceddy Smith Trophy is on the line for the first time when these two local rivals meet. Smith played 191 matches for New Brighton at first-five in a career spanning 14 years (1961-75) and coached at the club for a decade (1973-1983) bringing plenty of success. Smith passed away on March 23rd, 2019.
A tough and physical encounter is expected between these two eastern clubs with both their seasons potentially on the line. New Brighton is known as a hard place to come and win, proof is in the pudding, the seasiders have won three out their four at home this season only losing to Sydenham when Derek Stowers struck an injury-time 40m penalty back in round two for Sydenham. Linwood were competitive for 40 minutes against Lincoln last weekend before succumbing to the students in the second half. Alex Frew and Carisbrook Toomalatai are both expected to run out for their 50th match for New Brighton.
Christchurch (3rd) v Marist-Albion (2nd) at Christchurch Park
Another of the big games this week, its third hosting second. Christchurch have won their last couple despite still looking for that “complete performance” while Marist have won four on the trot and have looked better and better with each game, not really being tested on the scoreboard since Burnside almost a month ago. Christchurch coach Simon Kneebone admitting his selectors maybe “scratching around a little” after illness and some injuries have depleted the squad a little bit this week. Marist will feature around half a dozen former Christchurch Colts that made the move in search for senior rugby a couple of years ago which is likely to add a little bit of extra spice.
Belfast (12th) v Old Boys (9th) at Sheldon Park
Old Boys will be desperate to get the points here knowing a loss will end their hopes of defending their title. Belfast are winless this season despite turning in a couple of performances to be happy about in recent weeks.
Lincoln University (1st) v Shirley (7th) at Lincoln
Lincoln bounced back last week with a solid second 40 to claim the spoils against Linwood after losing the DCL and their unbeaten record a week earlier. The students still sit at the summit of the ladder and can secure top four with a win. Shirley’s season has hit a snag in the road losing their past four and slipping to mid-table. The Vikings are another side that know their season is on the line here.
Sumner (11th) v Burnside (6th) at St. Leonards
Sumner have won over some critics of late with their willingness to throw the ball around and score tries despite still having just the one win this season. The club is booming and some of the credit should be given to the style of play the Wave are going for. Burnside are unbeaten in their past three and have propelled themselves back into contention although that is not something the side are focused on, rather taking it game-by-game, and performing to the standard they expect of themselves.
All matches are scheduled to kick off at 2.45pm, and in Alert Level 2 no spectators are allowed at the games.