Battle of No 10s may decide match

University first five-eighth Michael Williams at club training at Logan Park last night. Photo: Linda Robertson
University first five-eighth Michael Williams at club training at Logan Park last night. Photo: Linda Robertson
Michael Williams - the first five-eighth who tackled so hard he broke his shoulder.

Actually, the University pivot blames cricket for the injury but never let the truth get in the way and all that.

The 22-year-old is certainly one of the best defenders in his spot in the premier grade.

He got through so many tackles at school an old coach suggested he switch to the side of the scrum.

Between those big hits for Otago Boys' High School and his love of cricket, the 22-year-old ended up with a crook shoulder which kept him on the sideline for a stint.

But the University of Otago physiotherapy student is injury-free this season and has been crucial in helping his team reach the premier final on Saturday.

Harbour awaits. It will bring a contrasting style. The Hawks have leant on a big pack to get front-foot ball and have a pretty decent first five-eighth in Logan Allen as well.

His duel with Williams will be an interesting side battle worth staying tuned for.

Williams' goal-kicking has been just tremendous. The word is he is knocking over about 90% of his attempts.

He is a reliable ball carrier who seldom turns the ball over and still tackles hard - so he is no Carlos Spencer.

Allen, meanwhile, has a monstrous left-foot punt and has had the comfort of playing behind a dominant pack.

''Both first-fives are doing a great job of running their team so it will be a good challenge, University assistant coach Roy Hawker said.

''Ultimately, the one who does their role the best will most likely be in the winning team.''

No pressure then?

Williams grew up in Christchurch but shifted to the Maniototo with his father when he was 13. He played for Otago Boys's First XV in year 12 but his shoulder ruled him out the following season.

In his first year of colts rugby he shifted to second five-eighth where he worked on that solid defence.

But he moved back to the No 10 jersey when University had a couple of injuries earlier this season. It is his preferred spot and he his part of the Otago B set-up.

But ''having been injured for the past two or three years'' Williams is wary about getting too ambitious about his rugby future.

''But I'm starting to get a bit of confidence back and things have been going all right this year, so I'll just take it step by step, I suppose,'' he said.

More immediately, he is focused on what he needs to do to help University beat Harbour in the final at Forsyth Barr Stadium tomorrow afternoon.

''Obviously, the last few years things haven't really gone to plan for the boys. But this year we've got a new outlook and it has been showing with the results in the weekend.''

While University will look to exploit its pace out wide and play an expansive brand on what will be a firm track, Williams is confident the pack can achieve parity.

Harbour has lost some muscle with the departure of its Otago-contracted players but still dominated the forward exchanges in an impressive display against Taieri in the 30-20 semifinal win.

University has had the better of the matches between the two teams this year, winning both round-robin games.

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