Ardmore Marist South Auckland Motors and Karaka will go head-to-head in an intriguing McNamara Cup final at Navigation Homes Stadium on Saturday.
The two clubs topped the standings last year when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the remainder of the season. They were the two leading sides through round robin play in 2021 and both teams showed resilience and mental strength to fight their way back from double digit deficits in their respective semi-finals last weekend to make the decider.
The season record between the two clubs stands at one game apiece – Karaka narrowly winning the first round encounter before Ardmore Marist bounced back in the second round to finish the round robin in top spot.
“We really need to concentrate on eliminating those unforced errors which we have been guilty of during the season,” Karaka coach Craig Hill said.
“Ardmore Marist, like all the top sides, will punish you with those.
“They have a very mobile pack, who can play the tight game so are able to mix it up and have players who individually can make things happen off the cuff.
“They are a quality team, who topped the round robin the last two years.”
Ardmore Marist coach Doug Sanft has been here before – he lifted the McNamara Cup in 2018 when his side had to go to extra time to beat Patumahoe in the final.
That experience and know-how will help his side in the game that counts.
“Just sticking to our process and what we are good at,” he said of what he needs from his players.
“And just trying to navigate what they have. They have some big ball runners, so we have to front up on [defense] pretty much.”
Sanft said his team got through last weekend’s semi-final against Patumahoe pretty well and they are largely free on injury concerns.
“Everyone is good. Relieved but at the same time excited about the final,” Sanft added.
A battle between the two stand-out teams from the Sid Marshall Shield Championship sees Drury host Te Kauwhata Proclad at Drury on Saturday.
The home side is looking to complete the perfect season having gone through the round robin and semi-finals unbeaten.
Te Kauwhata’s only loss all year came at the hands of Drury, and they will be hoping to call upon their big game experience to get it right in the final match of the year.
Neighbours Manurewa Barfoot & Thompson and Papakura Thirsty Liquor will square off on in the Massey Cup U21 final on Navigation Homes Stadium number one.
Manurewa finished the regular season in top spot but were surprisingly held to a draw by fourth-ranked Pukekohe in the semi-finals last weekend.
Papakura had to do it the hard way, going to Patumahoe and beating last year’s leading side at their home ground a week after being on the end of a convincing loss to the same opposition.
It means they will get a shot at lifting the Massey Cup and the honour of playing on the hallowed turf of the home of Counties Manukau Rugby.
Patumahoe and Karaka – the competition’s two top sides – will meet in yet another U85kg final.
Finishing one and two in the round robin, the two arch-rivals have plenty of history over the years and have been the two most successful U85kg clubs.
Karaka won a cliff-hanger a few weekends back between the two teams while Patumahoe has a history of triumphing over Karaka in competition finals.
It promises to be a thrilling decider.
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