The Counties Power Heat’s season is officially over with New Zealand Rugby announcing today the three Auckland-based rugby teams have been forced to withdraw from the Farah Palmer Cup due to circumstances relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With the inability to train under either COVID Alert Level 4 or 3 and the FPC semi-finals scheduled to commence next weekend, Auckland, North Harbour and the Counties Power Heat have run out of time to get back on the field.
The Counties Power Heat could have taken a giant step towards making the semi-finals if they had beaten Waikato in their final round robin game.
Once that match was called off due to the lockdown in Auckland, their fate would have then been determined by the result of this weekend’s game between Wellington and Bay of Plenty.
However, given the ongoing lockdown, it was clear that even if Auckland was to move to Alert Level 2 by next week and results went the Counties Power Heat’s way, there wouldn’t be sufficient time for the team to prepare for a potential semi-final appearance.
“We are absolutely gutted for the Counties Power Heat,” Counties Manukau Rugby Football Union CEO Aaron Lawton said.
“This team has worked so hard and to have their season ruined by something that is completely out of everyone’s control is particularly hard to take.
“We tried everything to re-start but with the Auckland region still at Level 4, we have simply run out of time.
“I want to thank our players and coaching staff for their hard work and dedication. My thoughts are with them as I know they are very disappointed.”
Meanwhile, Lawton said the Union was still playing a waiting game with the PIC Steelers and a possible return to action in the Bunnings Warehouse NPC.
NZ Rugby’s request for an exemption to have the Auckland-based teams moved to Taupo was denied by the government, which means the team will now be forced to wait for possible Alert Level changes.
“Obviously we would love to see Auckland move to Level 3 as soon as possible but there are still numerous possibilities for how we get back into the NPC and we will continue to push to do whatever it takes to get the PIC Steelers back on the field this season,” Lawton said.
“We think there is a still a reasonable chance of that happening and we need to be ready to move once the situation changes.”
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