Kaikorai out to emulate run of 2016

Kaikorai midfielder TeeJay Ane goes over for a try in the tackle of Harbour first five-eighth...
Kaikorai midfielder TeeJay Ane goes over for a try in the tackle of Harbour first five-eighth Logan Allen at Watson Park on Saturday.PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The Bishopscourt faithful have been in reflective mood this week.

The talk down at the Kaikorai clubrooms has centred around how much this season is shaping up like the magnificent run in 2016 when the team won nine games in a row to claim the title.

The Demons looked too far back in the field to reach the playoffs at the start of the second round. But Kaikorai clawed its way back into contention, winning six of its past seven games to slip into the playoffs.

Its prize is a semifinal against a dominant University team at a boggy University of Otago Oval.

The home side will start as a strong favourite. It beat Kaikorai in both round-robin games and has set the benchmark this season with sparkling back play and strong defence.

But Kaikorai coach Roger Cotton said the mood in the team and around the clubrooms was upbeat.

"Some of the people around the club have been saying the same thing," Cotton said in reference to the 2016 run.

"But we are not getting ahead of ourselves, that's for sure.

Kaikorai upset University with a late try in the 2016 semifinal and went on to win the final thanks to a mighty game by centre Jayden Spence.

The team had to battle hard to reach the playoffs that season and the run this year has been awfully familiar.

"It has been a fight in every game during the second round, really," Cotton stressed.

"And we are going to have to fight again but that is nothing new for us."

Kaikorai's campaign was almost derailed by Green Island, which missed a late dropped goal to clinch victory in round 13. The dream could have ended two weeks later as well when Southern missed a late penalty and lost 20-19.

There was a hiccup against Taieri but Kaikorai bounced back last week to dispatch Harbour 48-21 and clinch a place in the semifinals.

"I'm confident that we will be as well prepared as we can be. I also think Varsity is a very good side and we have to treat them with the utmost respect.

"But we'll certainly turn up to play."

Both sides employ an expansive style of rugby but the conditions may dictate a more conservative brand. The pitch block at the Oval was pretty muddy on Wednesday and a large debris blower was deployed to help dry the surface.

"We both like to play the game at pace but if it is going to be a bit heavy under foot then it will be the team that adjusts to that best which will probably do better."

Dynamic loose forward Christian Lio-Willie has broken his share of tackles this season, and front rower Sam Wyber has been tough to stop when close to the line.

Midfield pairing TeeJay Ane and Eti Slater have been impressive, while pivot Ben Miller has made big improvements.

It is a good young side with a plenty of character, Cotton said. But whether that translates into a win tomorrow remains to be seen.

Cotton feels Taieri may have the edge on Harbour in the other semifinal at Pater Johnstone Park.

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