Champions battle it out for Gallaher
History is set to repeat itself during Saturday’s Gallaher Shield club rugby final at Eden Park.
Reigning champs Ponsonby will face last year’s finalists Waitemata, after they overcame Marist 27-12 at Western Springs.
Ponsonby coach Simon Scott says Waitemata’s big forward pack are sure to make it difficult for them.
But he is confident his side has the depth to win their seventh Gallaher Shield title in eight years, despite losing several players to Auckland earlier in the season.
“We’ve got a good group of guys who make up our squad,” he says.
“If people hadn’t noticed, it’s how clubs come out after the Air New Zealand Cup squad is announced that shows what state you’re in.”
And with the final being held at Eden Park, Scott is hoping for some running rugby.
“Even if you do get a lot of rain, it’s a great surface to play on.”
Scott says halfback Wayne Ngaluafe’s outstanding tactical play will be an important feature of the final.
But he knows they have to get their goal-kicking right after wing Adam Siddall missed several shots against Marist, before first-five Brett Williams took over later in the match.
“At the end of the day goal- kicking is going to win you finals, so we’ve got to sharpen that up.”
Meanwhile, Grammar Carlton coach Brandon Jackson says he’s gutted his team lost out to Waitemata at Cornwall Park 17-10 in extra time.
The match was tied 10-10 at fulltime.
“I don’t know if we deserved to win, but we had the winning of the game at one stage.
“Waitemata have an experienced forward pack in the wet, while we have a lot of young guys.”
Jackson says the uncertainty of having many of his second-tier players selected for the Auckland training squad late in the season has made things difficult.
“It’s been hit and miss the last few weeks. I knew we were going to lose the toptier guys, but when the second-tier guys moved away, I didn’t know who would be playing.”
However the former Auckland player is pleased with the progress his side has made this season.
“We had a very, very young squad last year, and now we’ve just got a young squad,” he says.
“We won games this year that we wouldn’t have won last year.”
In the second-tier Portola Trophy semifinal Te PapapaMt Wellington defeated Papatoetoe 17-15, while East Tamaki beat Eden-Roskill 15-8 in the President’s Cup semifinal.
The Gallaher Shield final between Ponsonby and Waitemata takes place at Eden Park on Saturday, while Te Papapa-Mt Wellington face Teachers Eastern at Orakei Domain for the Portola Trophy.
Both matches 2.45pm.
Breaking through: Ponsonby halfback Wayne Ngaluafe is scragged by Marist openside Feleti Taumoepeau during the Gallaher Shield semifinal at Western Springs on Saturday.
Down you go: Ponsonby wing Tom Wiley can’t escape Marist second-five Josh Levi’s tackle after claiming a high kick.