Full-strength Taieri firm favourite

The wrap

So it is all done and dusted and we are down to two — Varsity and Taieri meet in a repeat of last year’s final. Really all this for that!

Taieri was just too solid all across the park for Harbour which had the home-town advantage. The Eels pack was just that much better than Harbour’s. Matt Whaanga was just a bit big in the midfield and the Hawks struggled to tame him. That said, the game was still in the balance with 10 minutes to go but two quick late tries sealed Harbour’s fate.

Varsity had to hold on for dear life as Southern stormed back into the game late. Southern was camped on the Varsity line at the death and, but for a brain explosion by Magpies halfback Tala Fagasoaia, it could have snatched a victory. But that’s finals footy and gives Varsity a chance at a threepeat.

The finals

So the CRC met on Monday and voted to play three finals at the stadium (much to the consternation of chairman Don!) this weekend. So the under-13 game between Zingari and Pirates will kick off at 10am with a crowd of 100, the prem colts final between Varsity Blue and the Dunedin Makos will start at noon with a crowd of 400 and the prem final will kick off at 3pm in front of a crowd of 800. The great news is that we are getting some numbers into watch the games. The clubs in the finals are handling ticket allocation so please talk to them if you are wanting to get along to the games.

We are hoping everybody who goes along will donate $5 or $10 to defray some costs and put some much needed money back into grass-roots rugby. If you can’t get to the stadium, the ODT will be live-streaming the colts and premier games. Just go to odt.co.nz/sport for the games. Both will have full commentary so I apologise for that in advance! The prem 2 final between GI and Dunedin will now be played at the Toolbox starting at 2pm. The junior colts final between Kaik and Dunedin will now be played at the High Veldt commencing at 12.30pm. The senior final between Kaik and Strath Taieri will also be played there at 3pm.

So who wins?

Taieri goes into the final as a firm favourite as it has no injuries and all its Otago players are available to play — Scott, Whaanga, Fischli. Conversely, Varsity has Hill, Withy, Jackson, and Timu away on Otago duty and Taylor Haugh is out injured. Taieri has been the most consistent team in the comp this year. It has a workmanlike set of forwards who just get the job done, defend like their lives depend on it and has some big ball runners. Its backline is no Rolls-Royce but extremely efficient. Varsity is mercurial and has dash and flair but will it be enough to win it? Possibly not. The secret weapon is Super Coach Pete McIntyre who has won eight finals on the trot for Varsity — unbelievable! Put the statue up now because he may lose this one.

The two best teams in the Blues and the Makos face off in the prem colts final. The Makos won it last year but I think this is Varsity’s year— take it to the bank.

The GI Spannerheads have been the best team in the prem 2 comp and are playing at home so should romp home over Dunedin. The smart money says Kaik beats the Dunedin Bulls top remain unbeaten in the junior colts final and regains some face for the once “Super Club” Kaik. Could be a good day for Kaik as it should tip over the farmers from Strath Taieri in the senior final. Then again, funnily enough, I’ve been wrong before

The Ainge Shield

The CRC and Otago Rugby are really keen to give the Ainge Shield more prestige and make it the most sought-after trophy in club rugby. It is awarded to the best-performed club across all grades. Currently, it is measured against your five best-performing teams. The CRC will look at that structure for next year with a view to reducing the number of teams to four so more clubs are eligible to compete for it. With finals still to be played, it looks like a match race between Varsity and Dunedin with Kaik being the next best club. It will be presented at the club awards night. Apparently, it was first presented by Mr JA Ainge in 1923 and weirdly nobody seems to know who he was!

Form XV

After much prevarication I can finally name my form XV for the year. Really tough to pick fullback, first five-eighth and halfback although the rest were pretty clear-cut. 15: Levi Emery (AU), 14: Freedom Vahaakolo (D), 13: Sala Halaleva (H), 12: Noah Cooper (AU), 11: Jermaine Pepe (V), 10: Ben Miller (K), 9: Nathan Hastie (H), 8: Sean Withy (V), 7: Jack McHugh (V), 6: Nick Henderson (T), 5: Josh Hill (V), 4: Jack Regan (D), 3: Kurt Prendeville (S), 2: Brady Robertson (T), 1: Jonah Aiona (K).

The dreaded report card

Akhambra-Union (C-)

Good team numbers (five) but results not spectacular. Improved showing by Prems and could have easily made the top six.

Dunedin (B-)

Great team numbers (six) and results have been good with three teams making finals tomorrow. The prems disappointed, however, going out in quarterfinals.

Green Island (D)

Only three teams and the prems were in the bottom two and prem colts at the bottom of the pile. The only shining light is the prem 2s in a final tomorrow.

Harbour (C+)

Only three teams but they all made quarterfinals at least with prems dipping out in semis — solid season.

Kaikorai (C+)

Great team numbers (seven) so great effort there. Results have been OK with two teams making finals tomorrow albeit in lesser grades.

Southern (B-)

Massive turnaround in team numbers (five) and some pretty good results with prems and prem colts making semfinals.

Taieri (C+)

Good team numbers (five) although results mixed but the prems are playing finals footy tomorrow.

Varsity (B+)

Good team numbers (six) and two sides in finals tomorrow and have already won women’s grade and favourite to take Ainge Shield.

Zingari-Richmond (C-)

Only two teams and battling away — but keep on chipping away, and socially in great heart.

This weekend

Thrashed by Bilbo last weekend and up against Dunedin’s best publican Mark Scully this week so I’m predicting a draw at best! Good luck to all teams in finals tomorrow — have a great summer, catch you next year and long live Level 1.



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