De­ci­sive week for semis hope­fuls

Four teams in chase for spots

Taranaki Daily News - - Sport - Glenn McLean

If the penul­ti­mate round of pre­mier rugby were mov­ing day for the top six sides, then this week is D-Day for four of them chas­ing the fi­nal two semi­fi­nal places.

New Ply­mouth Old Boys and Coastal have booked them­selves semi­fi­nal spots but that is the only cer­tainty with one week to play in round-robin ac­tion.

Old Boys guar­an­teed them­selves a home semi­fi­nal af­ter they beat arch ri­vals Tukapa 22-14 at Vogeltown Park, while South­ern’s up­set 19-18 win over In­gle­wood on Fri­day night means Coastal need only a point next week against Clifton to book a home play­off.

Al­though Tukapa lost, they still have a chance to make it into the top four if they can beat Spotswood United next week and Clifton lose to Coastal.

Con­versely, Spotswood United can still make it if they beat Tukapa and Clifton lost to Coastal.

In­gle­wood could also miss out if Clifton and Spotswood United both win and they fail to get a bonus point against Old Boys.

One thing is cer­tain, the phones will be ring­ing at all the venues on Satur­day as some teams wait to hear if their sea­son is ex­tended for an­other week.

The JD Hick­man fea­ture match was a tight and tense af­fair at Yarrow Sta­dium where Clifton kept their play­off hopes alive with a nail-bit­ing 21-17 win over Spotswood United.

It was so close, Spotswood United could have grabbed the win in the fi­nal play of the game as wing Dion Beer went within a whisker of scor­ing in the cor­ner.

Had it not been for a tremen­dous cov­er­ing tackle by Clifton cen­tre Josh Ken­dall, his side would have been head­ing into its show­down with Coastal with lit­tle to play for.

Ken­dall’s hero­ics typ­i­fied the ur­gency and de­sire both sides played with for the en­tire match as the crowd was kept on edge.

Just about ev­ery play felt as if it had the match rid­ing on it, the lead chang­ing hands sev­eral times as each side tried ev­ery­thing it could to get a break on its op­po­si­tion.

‘‘It was just ticker that got us through in the end,’’ ex­hausted Clifton cap­tain Chris Black said af­ter the match.

‘‘We prob­a­bly didn’t put enough points on in the first half when we had them stretched there but to hold on like we did, that leaves us in good stead go­ing for­ward.’’

Hold on they cer­tainly had to as Spotswood United pounded their line late in the match af­ter they were awarded a suc­ces­sion of penal­ties.

The des­per­a­tion from both sides could be seen clearly as they were cheered on from the side­lines.

‘‘We put our­selves un­der a bit too much pres­sure re­ally, but I guess that just shows the at­ti­tude of the boys,’’ Black said.

The win moved Clifton up to fourth place and gave them a real shot at mak­ing back-to-back semi­fi­nals when it ap­peared ear­lier in the sea­son they were not go­ing to be good enough.

Black con­ceded they might have played with a bit of nerves in the sec­ond half but he paid credit to the way Spotswood United at­tacked them.

If there were a dif­fer­ence be­tween the two sides, then it was prob­a­bly the im­pact Clifton got off their bench, a lux­ury Spotswood United did not have with their de- pleted squad, which has been hit hard by in­juries.

‘‘I’m ab­so­lutely stuffed,’’ Spotswood United cap­tain Warwick Lah­mert said.

‘‘The tempo was fast, it was re­ally fast rugby. I take my hat off to the boys, they are play­ing awe­some. We have ob­vi­ously had in­juries at the wrong time of the sea­son but that’s rugby and I’m still re­ally im­pressed with the way the team is go­ing at the mo­ment.’’

Lah­mert was one of the stand­outs in the match, along with the key play­ers from both sides who per­formed to a stan­dard they need to at this time of the sea­son.

Else­where, Coastal all but se­cured a home semi­fi­nal af­ter a hard-fought 31-8 win over bot­tom- placed Strat­ford at Opunake.

Coastal coach Joe Lawn said Strat­ford re­ally put pres­sure on them for long pe­ri­ods, play­ing above their po­si­tion on the ta­ble.

He was de­lighted to have scored a bonus-point try as he, too, bat­tles to get a full squad on the field.

Such is their predica­ment, re­tired play­ers Phil Bar­ron and Nick Lawn have had to find their boots and sit on the re­serves bench.

Joe Lawn said half­back Brett Goodin was again a stand­out, while lock Andy Lane gave him real im­pact off the bench.

Rick McKenna coped well with hav­ing to cover sec­ond five-eighth, full­back and half­back.

South­ern re­warded their faith­ful sup­port­ers with a gutsy win over In­gle­wood.

For­mer All Blacks lock Jar­rad Hoeata made a rare ap­pear­ance for South­ern and made an im­pact in the sec­ond half when he was in­tro­duced, while his brother, Ricki, had an­other stand­out match.

The win was not se­cured un­til the last minute when Daniel Brooks landed a con­ver­sion from near the side­line.

In­gle­wood co-cap­tain Berny Hall scored two tries in a good per­sonal per­for­mance.

The loss has the po­ten­tial to be re­ally sig­nif­i­cant for In­gle­wood, es­pe­cially if they lose to Old Boys and other re­sults go against them.

Photo: ANDY JACK­SON/FAIR­FAX NZ

Head high: Clifton full­back Beaudein Waaka is col­lared by Spotswood lock Blake Irv­ing dur­ing Satur­day’s pre­mier rugby match. Irv­ing es­caped pun­ish­ment af­ter the ref­eree spoke to an­other player.

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