Bye ideal for depleted team

Green Island second five Jared Fahey reaches for the ball in front of Southern defenders during...
Green Island second five Jared Fahey reaches for the ball in front of Southern defenders during their Dunedin premier club rugby game at Bathgate Park on Saturday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Green Island has a bye this weekend and it could not have come at a better time.

The Grizzlies (11 points) are halfway through the round robin with two wins, a draw and a loss from four games.

If they had had to play tomorrow, it would have been a bit of a struggle.

With three key players out injured and the fab five on duty for the Highlanders under-20 team, the lineup would have been compromised.

But just about everyone will be back for the Battle of Saddle against Taieri the following week.

Coach Erik Va’afusuaga will be able to call on Highlanders under-20 players Jake Te Hiwi, Finn Hurley, Bradley McPate, Oliver Haig and Heath MacEwen.

Veteran lock Josh Clark should return from injury and experienced front-rower Peter Mirrielees could be back in time.

Suspended Rebels midfielder Ray Nu’u may be available as well.

Halfback James Arscott broke a bone in his hand against Alhambra-Union, but is on track to return in time for the semifinals.

He will miss the game against Taieri, which is for all the marbles — the Speight’s Shield, the Bezett Memorial and the Robb Cup are all at stake.

Not to mention it is a replay of last year’s final in which Taieri edged Green Island 21-17.

The Eels are undefeated this season and have set the benchmark again.

"Obviously, there is a fair bit riding on the game for us," Va’afusuaga said.

"We grabbed a couple of trophies last year but did not manage to wrestle the banner from them."

Aside from getting one up on the archenemy, every game is important this year as the season is so short.

Green Island is in second place on the competition standings, but only four points ahead of the seventh-placed team. The Grizzlies could very quickly drop out of the top six with a couple of poor results.

Tomorrow, Taieri hosts Southern, which upset Green Island 20-3 last weekend, in what shapes as an interesting match-up.

Kaikorai is at home to Harbour and it is a big game for the Demons, who are in eighth place with one win from three matches. Harbour has two wins from four games and is nestled in fifth place with nine points.

Alhambra-Union (sixth place, seven points) was drilled 37-0 by Taieri last weekend and will be looking to bounce back against bottom-of-the-table Zingari-Richmond (one point) at Montecillo.

Dunedin (third, 10 points) will host a desperate University side (seventh, seven points) at Kettle Park.

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