Playoff rugby offers up intriguing battles
Club rugby followers have the choice of two intriguing Hankins Shield semi-finals tomorrow as the McDonald’s Senior 1 club rugby competition hits the playoff stage.
Johnston Park in Feilding is the venue for Yellows-Old Boys Marist match, while top of the table College Old Boys are at home to Varsity at Central Energy Trust Arena.
The Yellows coaches don’t have to look far to remind their chargers that Old Boys Marist shouldn’t be taken lightly. The two teams faced off in the opening round of the season and it was a sluggish Feilding that tasted the bitter taste of defeat, 29-46.
While Feilding later evened the ledger in May, they will know it is not a matter of turning up tomorrow and victory will come. A Yellows win will centre around their forward pack, which has been been a real strike weapon for the club throughout the season.
Steering the ship at first five-eighth is the talented Ben Wyness, who suffered a broken leg in the corresponding fixture last year. Wyness is a cool customer and will look to position Yellows around the park so they can take full advantage of their home track.
In the other Hankins Shield match, College Old Boys enter the playoffs in the same position as Yellows did last season, sitting on top of the table and having secured both the Jubilee Cup and Centennial Shield along the way.
COB, which celebrated its centenary earlier in the season, have the tricky task of taming the inform Varsity team.
Varsity already have sudden-death experience in 2019, beating Feilding Old Boys Oroua, 43-21, last Saturday in what was effectively a quarter-final.
Head-to-head COB have the advantage with victories (19-0 and 29-24) in their two encounters this year. However, since Varsity’s narrow loss to COB the students have registered five wins on the trot, beating OBM and Yellows along the way.
In the Val Holland Memorial Trophy semi-finals, defending Hankins Shield champions Feilding Old Boys Oroua will be looking to account for Freyberg before looking ahead to the final. Freyberg have suffered consecutive 62-3 defeats in the past two weeks and the form book suggests it should be a Stags’ win.
The other semi-final is a different story with Kia Toa back at Bill Brown Park, hosting Te Kawau. The two sides met last weekend at Rongotea with Te Kawau recording a two-point win. Both sides have been ravaged by injuries but expect it to be a competitive team for the fixture.
The final factor in the semi-final equations has been the weather in the past couple of days and what impact that may have on the playoffs. The COB-Varsity game shouldn’t be affected by the wet as it’s the oval at Central Energy Trust Arena, likewise the Stags-Freyberg match up on the highveld at Kimbolton, but Johnston Park and Bill Brown Park could be a slippery for tomorrow’s clashes.