Dwyer's take: Kaikorai, Taieri favoured in semis

The wrap

Two of the games went with the form horses but the third threw in the standard upset.

Kaik were just too strong all over the park when they racked up 50 against Harbour. The game was over as a contest at halftime with Kaik leading by 34 to zip.

Taieri struggled against an understrength GI outfit but did enough with a 10-point win to ease into the semis for the millionth straight year!

My spies tell me GI didn’t help their cause by giving up three yellow cards which you can’t do in any rugby, let alone playoff rugby, and expect to win.

In the upset, Southern stopped the flow of consecutive losses when they tipped over the Sharks at the Sandpit.

On the back of impenetrable backline defence, a dominant lineout, and MacKenzie Haugh (the fullback who accounted for all their 19 points) they were too good for Dunedin who still qualified for the semis as the highest-placed loser.


The semis

So it comes down to this. Kaik take on Dunedin at the High Veldt and Taieri take on Southern at the Eelpit.

So what can we expect? As I talked about last week, injuries and non-availability could go a long way to determining the outcome of both games. Kaik go into their game at Dunedin as overwhelming favourites. They have lost two players to Southland and Will Tucker, the Highlander and Otago lock, will be unavailable, but looking at their team, they have very few injuries and deserve favouritism.

The pack is very functional at scrum and lineout time. Flanker Casey has been a standout all year and the backline love working off quick ball. They make a lot of space out wide and have scored a plethora of tries in those channels.

Dunedin, by contrast, are battling injuries and were missing four of their best last week against Southern in tighthead Rohan Wingham, lock Reuben Palmer, openside Jay Davis and flying winger Oscar Schmidt-Uli. Wingham is still out and he has been the best prop in the comp, Palmer is back but Davis and Schmidt-Uli are under a cloud.

With the rain this week Bishopscourt will be a bog so that may help the strong Dunedin pack but it is Kaik’s to lose.

Taieri have been battling injuries but could have Caleb Leef, Josh Hill, Brady Robertson available so will go in as favourites, especially at home. They are the best-drilled side in the comp and the best defensively and Southern, apart from Haugh, didn’t offer much on attack.

Southern’s best player, flanker and captain Harry Taylor, has been released from Otago and will front.

They’ve had some serious injuries this year (especially fullback Josh Buchan) but they look reasonably settled going into this semi, so it will be extremely tight, but, again I think it’s Taieri’s to lose.


The Wānaka Showgrounds were packed for the Central Otago premier club final between Upper Clutha...
The Wānaka Showgrounds were packed for the Central Otago premier club final between Upper Clutha and Alexandra last Saturday. PHOTO: BLUE SIMON
Down on the farm

So its all done and dusted in the country. Pirates Old Boys won in the deep south, West Taieri won in the south two weeks ago. In the north, in the world’s weirdest comp, Valley went undefeated for the season but left it late to put Excelsior away in Oamaru to etch their name back on the trophy.

But in the big upset of the year, Upper Clutha, looking to win the banner and hold the White Horse trophy for the summer for the first time in 50 years, crashed and burned. The rags-to-riches, unheralded Alexandra pulled off the upset of the decade to shatter their dreams of immortality.

What was great to see was a packed Wanaka Showgrounds to witness the spectacle. There were 2500 people crammed in to watch it. Otago can only dream of those numbers these days!

Congrats to the Central Otago rugby fraternity for making it such a special event.


The dreaded spoon

Well, the top four have been decided but at the other end of the table so has the dreaded wooden spoon.

I decided to add the spoon to the Dunedin club rugby player of the year awards last season and it proved to be a highlight (possibly??). I had it professionally made at massive expense by Dunedin’s best joiners, Brent Lucas Builders. It has resided at AU this year but with their defeat of Zingers at the weekend they will gleefully turn it over to Zingari at the award function next month.

I hear there is more trouble brewing at the Cemetery which they should be able to stir with the aforesaid spoon. Apparently the prem coaching team all stormed out last Thursday night as the toys were tossed asunder from the cot!! Not sure where to from here for Zingari but rest assured I’ll keep you informed.


Lower grades

In the premier 2 grade we are at semifinals as well. Kaik take on Varsity in one semi at the High Veldt and Taieri take on GI in the other.

I’m predicting frontrunners Kaik should comfortably progress through to the final but I’d love to see one Varsity side make it through to a final, especially coached by the enigmatic Chris Burke. I’m tipping GI will finally beat Taieri in at least one grade and head to the final.

In prem colts we are also at semifinals and these look more clear-cut. Dunedin take on Taieri in one semifinal at Kettle Park and Kaikorai take on Zingari in the other.

Dunedin are unbeaten this year; in fact they haven’t been beaten for two years from memory, so they are due! But they should comfortably beat Taieri and progress to the final.

Zingari have made the semis in their first year in prem colts which is a magnificent effort but I’m afraid I can’t see them getting past Kaikorai who are perennial finalists in this grade.


The Form XV

I have picked a Form XV based on form throughout the season.

A lot of the positions were relatively easy. The wingers picked themselves as they were the top try-scorers and were consistently good all year. Fullback was a straight shoot out between Mackenzie Haugh and Finn Hurley and in the end I had to find space for both because of their influence on the competition.

Midfield was very hard with a multitude of contenders. At halfback there were only two serious contenders in Nathan Hastie and Bob Martin. No 8 was again hard with multiple contenders but I narrowed it down to two in Hame Toma and Brodie Hume.

There was a standout No6 and I had Lucas Casey playing well on both sides up against Jay Davis for openside. There were lots of good locks on display so a very hard spot to pick. The props picked themselves and hooker again was difficult with three or four contenders.

So the team is:

15 Mackenzie Haugh (S), 14 Jeremiah Asi (V), 11 Oscar Schmidt-Uli (D), 13 Matt Whaanga (T), 12 Joe Cooke (D), 10 Finn Hurley (GI), 9 Nathan Hastie (H), 8 Brodie Hume (T), 7 Lucas Casey (K), 6 Harry Taylor (S), 5 Reuben Palmer (D), 4 Oscar Graham (K), 3 Rohan Wingham (D), 2 Jake McEwan (S), 1 Ben Lopas (GI).


This weekend:

The Country comp is over and has been won by Clinton’s John Cleghorn, so congrats, mate. He beat me in his round and had the best differential. He wins a trip to an Otago game hosted by Speight’s for him and nine heavies from the Clinton club.

Not surprisingly I beat Dunedin’s best publican from Luna and the Sharks, Simon Conrad and on to Billy Somerville from Southern, so the run continues.

Kaik should beat the Sharks (12-) comfortably but as you know I just can’t bring myself to pick them. Taieri (12-) are a tough proposition at home so they just beat Southern but it will be oh, so close.

In P2s I’m tipping GI to upset Taieri.

Good luck to all the semifinalists.