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Harbour prevailed over a gallant Varsity side to finish third in the Gallaway to earn a home quarter against Kaikorai. Varsity, by virtue of Green Island losing, finish sixth and take on Taieri at the Eelpit. Kaikorai steamrolled AU at the High Veldt to set up the clash with Harbour. The mighty Zingers were too good for Green Island to hand the dreaded spoon to AU. Dunedin were down by 22 to Southern at the break but stormed home to win by and finish second. Their reward is a replay against the Magpies at the Sandpit this weekend.
The bottom three
Firstly, apologies to Zingari. I’ve been tipping them for the dreaded spoon all year but with Saturday’s win over Green Island, they leapfrog AU to finish eighth. But wait, it gets better. AU turned up at Kaikorai with 19 players on Saturday and had to go to golden oldie scrums in the second half, which is a terrible look in premier rugby. AU were drawn to play Zingari with the winner to play Green Island for seventh spot next weekend. AU are struggling for players on the back of injuries and varsity holidays and even Southland stealing players, so have pulled out of the bottom three playoff. Green Island, also on the back of player defections, mainly to NZ Colts, and injuries have also withdrawn from the bottom three competition, which means Zingers will now finish seventh in the competition. While I understand the two clubs’ dilemmas — and, let’s be fair, it’s not a competition that inspires players or coaches — it does not send a great message to club supporters. They’ve had four home games for the season which is financially a disaster in keeping clubs afloat plus a massive slap in the face for supporters and sponsors. We simply must do a better job.
Lock up your sons
The word was “Jacko” from North Otago was hiring a Hercules to prop up his playing stocks. But he’s decided it’s cheaper to grab them from big brother in the South. I understand Harbour backs Josh Weepu and Mone Samate-Palu have mysteriously appeared in the playoffs in North Otago and these are only the ones I’ve heard about! But the late mail is “Jacko” is off shore as we speak. Let’s not forget about Southland, who have tempted over Levi Emery from AU in the last week or so.
Down on the farm
In the north, Kurow take on Old Boys for the title with the country boys going in favourites with Parker, Todd and Faddes turning out. But you write off Old Boys at your peril, as they are perennial winners up there. Kurow, just. In the south, the “kissing cousins” Clutha and Clutha Valley square off for the title. Clutha are playing at home in the “big smoke” and go in as favourites but I suspect Valley might just have the last say. In Central, nobody knows what is going on! However, by my reckoning Upper Clutha are the top qualifier thus should be playing the team (the Maggots) that came from sixth to make it, but no, they are playing the old foe Wakatip. It gets weirder and weirder but it looks like the Goats are the big winners — they have some big ‘‘markers’’ in play.
The rumour mill
The word on the street is that Otago are up to their old tricks and have bought in a couple of players to prop up their squad. It has been deemed the locals aren’t up to it — really? A halfback out of Wellington and a ball-carrying No. 8 out of Waikato. The halfback is particularly sad if true as there are some good halfbacks down here — namely McClea from Varsity and Martin from Taieri. I’ll be interested to see how good the imports are. Let’s be fair, our track record isn’t great.
The picking comps in town and country for the life members of clubs are done and dusted. In town, Mel “the medic” Reynolds from Dunedin scored the most points on her turn at bat (although she still may have lost to me). In the country, the winner is Neville “Bumpy” Grant from Clutha. Congrats to both of you — you’ve won for all your life members a visit to the stadium to watch an Otago game in the Speight’s box. Finchy and I will be in touch with both clubs to discuss details.
Will the Irish be one up after this weekend at the impregnable Eden Park with the naming of an underwhelming All Black side? With Otago Rugby becoming further removed from the club scene and the pathway for players disappearing before our eyes, is it time for club rugby to fashion its own season and forget about when NPC rugby starts and ensure our own survival? Do Super players no longer need to play rugby (club) between that season finishing and NPC starting?
Up against Liquorland supremo Chris Hart this weekend and you’d have to agree the likeness in the Ale House picks ad is staggering. Varsity are mounting the Saddle and heading to “banjo” country to take on the Eels (12-). They’ve got Ricky Jackson and Josh Timu listed to play but the Eels have Josh Hill in their line up so I don’t see them losing any time soon. There wasn’t much between Dunedin (12-) and Southern last week but based on the Sharks last 40 minutes they should get it done at home in the Sandpit. In the game of the round, Harbour (12-) are at home to Kaik and they have a couple of Super front-rowers to call on in Abraham Pole and Saula Ma’u so could overpower a young Kaik team but it will be close. If both Taieri and Dunedin win their respective games, both teams will make it anyway — famous last words.