Knock out rugby for Varsity & Stags
Varsity will host Feilding Old Boys-Oroua for an effective quarter final in the last round of the McDonalds Manawatu Senior One club rugby season.
The Sky Blues head into the game sitting fourth, two points clear of defending champions FOB-Oroua meaning the winner will remain in the race for the Hankins Shield while the loser will be destined for the Val Holland Trophy.
FOB-Oroua entered the second round of the competition in second place, but since then have spluttered their way through.
Their forward pack has rarely managed to take control of games, which was such a vital part of their run to the title last year.
But their backline still has some serious attacking ability and that will be the key to their chances against Varsity.
The Sky Blues have seen opposing fortunes having turned their season around in the last four weeks.
Up front the likes of Nick Grogan, Atonio Walker-Leawere, Mickey Woolliams, Tom Hughes and Kirk Tufuga has been prominent.
Their backline has also discovered its attacking rhythm.
On paper, Varsity look to have a stronger side across the board.
Old Boys-Marist should secure third place by taking care of business against Freyberg.
The 2017 champions have been consistent all season and have looked better since turning to Hayden Hall at first five-eighth.
Freyberg have battled away bravely, especially in the first half of matches. But they have seen little rewards for all their endeavour – largely due to their leaky second half defence.
The promising signs for the club are the handful of younger players who have stepped up this year.
But they are unlikely to trouble a side like OBM.
Te Kawau and Kia Toa look set to battle it out two weeks in a row with them already locked into a Val Hollland semi-final match on July 6.
While Kia Toa will be favourite for both, it would hardly be surprising to see Te Kawau pick up wins in both weeks.
Te Kawau have been the big improvers of the second round, reinforced by a handful of quality Linton Army players.
Kia Toa, on the other hand, are limping their way to the finish line.
For a side so accustomed to battling for Hankins glory, getting excited about the Val Holland Trophy will be a test of character.
College Old Boys and Feilding Yellows will likely treat Saturday’s top of the table match-up as a training run.
COB were stunned by a fired up Yellows in round one, but don’t expect either side to show the same level of passion this weekend.
Both sides are locked into first and second respectively meaning there is little meaning for either side.
Expect them both to rest a host of players and keep their cards close to their chest.