Galbraith Shield final ahead

Star lineout jumper Maanaki Selby-Rickett takes a lineout throw during his team's 34-20 upset win...
Star lineout jumper Maanaki Selby-Rickett takes a lineout throw during his team's 34-20 upset win over Marist in a Galbraith Shield semifinal at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Saturday. Selby-Rickett was playing in his last game of the season before back surgery. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Star will play Blues in the Galbraith Shield final at Rugby Park tomorrow.

Star upset the top qualifier and defending champion Marist 34-20 in their semifinal, and Blues beat the Eastern Northern Barbarians 15-8.

Blues co-coach Simon Frisby said his team's preparation has been excellent.

"Beating Marist 20-nil in June was a turning point and then we had to win our last round-robin game to qualify for the semi, so we are used to the pressure.

"There's a great feeling among the team - we respect Star, but we deserve to be confident. We'll be dangerous on Saturday."

First five-eighth Mitch Taylor has been strong defensively and tactically for Blues, and their good forward pack has benefited from the efforts of versatile prop Ethan de Groot. Fellow youngster Kelani Elder at fullback and Brad Kooman on the wing are also in a rich vein of form.

Stags loose forward Bill Fukofuka has impressed for Blues since returning from injury, but will be doing well to contain the competition's standout loose forward Jordan Stewart tomorrow.

Wyndham will host the Ack Soper Shield Competition final this weekend against the red-hot Midlands.

Wyndham won its semifinal against Te Anau 22-10 and Midlands beat Edendale 33-15.

Midlands handed Wyndham its only loss of the season last month, and its victory last weekend was particularly impressive. Midlands possessed a dominant scrum and a smothering team defence.

Midlands Coach Dayna Cunningham was proud of how his team played.

"It was a good performance by us all, including our supporters who came down to watch."

Wyndham co-coach Casey McEwan said it has been a great season so far.

"We are lucky to have a big squad of 28 or 29; it is hard to pick 22 on a Saturday. We have a great culture - everyone feeds off each other."

The division one semifinals are on tomorrow. Pioneer finished the regular season as top qualifier and ominously put together its best 80 minutes of the season last week to beat Blues B 39-24.

Pioneer will host across-town rival Albion Excelsior tomorrow. Albion Excelsior booked its semifinal position after drawing 33-33 with Wakatipu last week. Albion Coach Richie Robinson was happy with the outcome.

"It was just the sort of hard-fought game we needed before the semi."

Mossburn earned the Speight's Shield and the spoils that come with it for 2019 after winning its last round-robin match against Star B 55-5. Mossburn hosts Blues B in their semifinal tomorrow - the Stags will start favourites after beating Blues B 40-19 last time they met.

The division two teams also have their semifinals tomorrow. Top qualifier Tokanui will start favourite against Drummond Limehills Star.

Mataura beat Riverton 28-15 last week and they will meet again at Mataura, with more riding on this result.

Bluff is scheduled to play Bush Pirates in what is being dubbed a third semifinal, as the winner will move forward to a play-off for fifth next weekend. Balfour Lumsden defaulted the fourth semifinal to Ohai Nightcaps. Woodlands B are scheduled to play Marist B in the fifth semifinal.

 - John Langford 

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