Wed, 05 Jul 2017
It all comes down to this.
The final weekend of round robin in Counties Manukau rugby promises to be an enthralling one with four of the five premier 1 fixtures having playoff implications.
The most obvious game will be the Counties Power Game of the Week as Pukekohe Mitre 10 Mega look to grab the most unlikely of semifinal spots with a win over Onewhero Counties Bulk Haulage at Colin Lawrie Fields in Pukekohe.
Six weeks ago Pukekohe was languishing in the second half of the ladder and in a position where they had to win all of their remaining games to even have a chance of qualifying for the semifinals. One game at a time however, the Waka Setitaia and Mark Price-coached side ticked their boxes.
Now they come down to the final weekend needing to beat the in-form Onewhero side while at the same time hoping Patumahoe Hotel beats Ardmore-Marist South Auckland Motors.
Pukekohe assistant coach Mark Price admits they won’t have it their own way against an Onewhero team that is only just behind them on the ladder and been playing really good quality rugby in recent weeks culminating in a convincing last-start win against Ardmore-Marist.
“They are on a bit of a roll as well,” the former Steelers hooker said. “Especially going up to Ardmore and doing that to them up there.
“They can’t make the semis but it would be like winning the championship for them if they could end our season at home.
“It is going to be a pretty tough one – as tough as [last week against Bombay] I would say.”
Onewhero are determined to finish the year strongly and they carry a three-game winning streak of their own into this game.
Coach Adam Cathcart is adamant his side will be up for the challenge.
“We want to express ourselves the way we want to play and keep building for next year,” he said
“If we can finish the year with four wins in a row that would be good reward for them because they have worked really hard.”
The late season surge has been bitter-sweet for Cathcart. He is proud of how well his side has played but frustrated that they will come up just short of a semifinal appearance.
“One missed penalty hit the post against Waiuku and we lost that game, another missed penalty against Patumahoe in the first round as well. A couple of close calls that could have gone either way and it could be a very different picture for us but that’s rugby,” he said.
While Price and his Pukekohe team will be clearly focused on their own game they will have one eye on the score from the game at Bruce Pulman Park where Ardmore Marist is hosting Patumahoe.
Ardmore Marist, who dominated most of the first round, find themselves four points ahead of Pukekohe in fourth spot with one game to play but Pukekohe holds the tie-breaker (courtesy of winning the second round clash between the two clubs) should both sides end up on the same number of competition points.
“We need Patumahoe to do us a favour as well,” Price said.
“Karaka may be able to jump Patty [into second place and therefore book a home semifinal] if Patty loses this weekend, which is more motivation for them to win.”
Patumahoe needs to get at least two competition points out of that fixture if they want to host a semifinal against Karaka next week. Karaka takes on Papakura, who are fresh off their first win of the season.
Bombay Gough Cat will go through as top qualifiers and will host a semifinal should they beat Te Kauwhata EnviroWaste at Bombay in their final round match.
Manurewa Kidd Contracting hosts Waiuku Brian James Contracting at Mountfort Park in a battle for sixth place.
Karaka and Bombay Pokeno Bacon are assured of semifinal spots in premier 2 while Pukekohe and Manurewa currently hold the other two places. One of Patumahoe Hutton Builders and Ardmore Marist Ross Roof Group could go ahead however as they place each other in the final round.
Ardmore Marist Ross Roof Group and Bombay will fight for the last semifinal spot in Under 21 action this weekend. Patumahoe Albycon Ltd, Pukekohe and Karaka are all assured of a semifinal place although Patumahoe and Pukekohe will meet this week to determine top spot.
Just four points separates the top three sides in the U85kg grade with Patumahoe Pak N Save, Ardmore Marist and Karaka fighting out home field advantage on the final weekend. Drury has already secured the final playoff spot.