Dwyer: Top six found, AU on board

Aaron McMurray  makes a break for University. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Aaron McMurray makes a break for University. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
The wrap

The mythical six is done and dusted and will be Southern, GI, Zingari, Kaik, Dunedin and Varsity. Mathematically, Harbour have a chance, but are 13 points adrift of No 6 Varsity and only have three games left. Southern crushed Zingers and put 50 on them to sit top by three from GI. Kaik looked scratchy against Harbour and only won by three, but got the bonus point to storm up to fourth. Varsity were made to work by AU and only came away in the last 15 minutes to secure the five-pointer. The big news is AU picked up their first point for collecting four tries. In the Battle of the Saddle, GI comfortably beat Taieri to sit in second spot, five points clear of third. The race for the Gallaway Trophy is a long way from being determined. Southern and GI are in the box seats, but both have tough run-ins, so still too close to call.


NZ Rugby

Well, the vote has been completed and, predictably, the provinces who hold most of the power have won the day. The RPA (players’ union) have said they are walking away and will run their own game. Well, that makes little or no sense, and I’m afraid is an empty threat. If they hadn’t threatened that prior to the vote, it may have gone differently. As for bleating on about saving grassroots rugby, this flies in the face of that. So where are we now? From what I can see, no further ahead and on a road to nowhere. Mark my words, it won’t end here.


Can we trust the provinces?

Unfortunately, I don’t think we can. Just look at our two home provinces as an example. Otago have just announced their coaching line up for the NPC season. The usual protagonists are there — Tom Donnelly, Ryan Bambry, Will Henry — and they’ve added Kane Jury. So no issue — all local lads. But now they’ve added a defence coach from Canberra — really? Is there no-one else available locally? This guy may be great, but we have no money in NZ rugby, has everybody forgotten that? What about Southland — they are running an academy in Dunedin with 15-odd players in it, all signed up. They’ve now got Dunshea and Tavatavanawai from the Landers signed up. Their stadium is falling down but, more importantly, where is the money coming from? We’re broke, remember. This will only be the tip of the iceberg across the country. The NPC is crumbling but we keep spending money we don’t have. So the answer is no, we don’t trust the provinces to get it right.


What’s up at Zingers?

The Colours lads have had a couple of losses in a row, so are the wheels starting to creak a tad? I see club legend Chris Bell, after playing his 300th game last week, was consigned to the P2s at the weekend — was this the reason for the heavy loss to Southern in the big game? My spies also tell me a club “heavy” and sponsor led a walkout to the Waterloo at halftime as they were none too happy with the performance. I don’t want to name names, but he could be Dunedin’s best roofer — self-proclaimed!


Pack the stands

I have discovered a way to pack the stands for the opening day of the NPC season. This may have come out of Southern’s 140th on Saturday night and might even have emanated from a former All Blacks prop, but is worth consideration if NZR is serious about the grassroots. We are suggesting that on the opening day of the NPC and Heartland season, the winning club team from each competition across the country represents their province as the provincial team of the day. There won’t be a dry eye in a house that will be full! We’ve laid down the challenge.


Next week

I promise we’ll get back down on the farm and find out what is happening in the country. It’s also playoffs in premier women’s rugby next week so we’ll take a good look at that. The four finalists are AU, Dunedin, Big River and Varsity.


This weekend

Destroyed cricket coach Cumming by a margin for the second time and he definitely won’t be qualifying for the finals. On to Murdoch from the Mornington who is our only selector in the black, but that changes this weekend. Varsity are at home to Kaik. Kaik struggle at sea level, but this game is too close to call. Could be a draw, but I’ll go with Varsity (12-) — with no real conviction. Taieri (12-) take on AU at the Pony Pit in the cellar-dweller shootout and the home team will be sniffing a W. I’ll stick with Taieri, just. In the big game of the round, Dunedin host Southern at the Sandpit for the Ron Reggett. It was a monumental battle in the first encounter, and this will be no different — they'll leave it all out there. Dunedin (12-) won the first meeting and might just do it again as their pack may have the edge and they have real pace out wide. The Spannerheads are at home at their beloved Toolbox against Harbour, and the GI (13+) boys should get it done comfortably.

Up against Grant Milne from Clutha Valley who has played, managed and presided down there and I need a win after getting thrashed by Paula Clark from Cromwell a couple of weeks ago. Owaka (13+) will be too good for Clinton at home. The Prison Guards from Toko (12-) could upset Lawrence at home. West Taieri (13+) will destroy Heriot on the road. In the real battle between feuding clans, Crescent (12-) will just do enough to hold off their nemesis Clutha.