University v Taieri - preview and live stream

University hooker Ricky Jackson looks to take the ball up against Dunedin in a match at the...
University hooker Ricky Jackson looks to take the ball up against Dunedin in a match at the University of Otago Oval earlier this year. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
You could have inked in University for a spot in the final at the start of the season.

But Taieri - not so much.

The Eels have a very handy side, no argument. But Harbour and Kaikorai looked more likely championship contenders for a good chunk of the season.

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Even Green Island emerged as a potential finalist following a Cinderella-like campaign.

The resurgent Grizzlies have been one of the best storylines of the season. But while Green Island was soaking up a lot of the attention, the Eels were slowly building.

A bye in the first round did not help any. And early losses to University and Harbour meant the Phil Young-coached side was playing catch-up for most of the first round.

But the 22-15 loss to Kaikorai at Bishopscourt on May 4 was actually the team's last loss.

Taieri has won 10 games on the trot to make the final and, remarkably, the Eels have been able to continue to operate under the radar.

Most neutrals are probably still picking a University win despite Taieri prevailing 17-15 against the Bookworms at the University of Otago Oval two weeks ago.

That game looked like a rehearsal for the final and so it has proved. It is probably no surprise two of the best defensive teams have made it through.

Taieri has been supremely organised and locating a gap in its defensive wall is about as hard as it is to find as a Black Caps fan who reckons a countback on boundaries is a good way to decide the outcome of the World Cup final.

One area in which University is well ahead, if you take any notice of the statistics, is on attack. The students have scored more than 500 points this season, so they know their way to the tryline.

That probably will not count for much. Finals tend to be won by defence.

University was forced to share the title with Harbour last season after the score was locked at 30-30 after 100 minutes. Coach Peter McIntyre is actually chasing his eighth consecutive title. He collected six straight with various colts sides and then last year's shared banner.

But Taieri will have a little bit of extra motivation as well. Young said he was drawing the curtain on his long coaching career.

The man nicknamed Yards played 50 games for Otago in 1980-85.

He took up coaching shortly after. The former loose forward has been the Otago and Highlanders assistant coach and also spent three years in Southland as the Stags head coach in 2002-2004.

This is his third year with Taieri and his last. It is time for someone else to take the reins, he said.

He will go out a winner regardless of the result at Forsyth Barr Stadium tomorrow. It has been a remarkable achievement to steer Taieri into the final.


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