Coastal finished top of the first round of Taranaki premier rugby, but Tukapa are breathing down their necks in second. Photo by Dave Lintott Photography.
Coastal have taken out the Brian Duffy Memorial Trophy after claiming top spot at the halfway point of Taranaki Premier club rugby with just the one loss to their name in seven matches.
However, just nine points separate top and bottom place as points are halved and rounded up to ensure the bottom of the table teams are still in with a chance of making the play offs. Coastal are on 14 points but will be aware that bottom placed Clifton, on five points, are only a few wins away from the top four.
Inglewood is the only team to beat Coastal so far, but have had some tight matches during the competition but Coastal are the clear front runners according to the results.
After two losses defending champions Tukapa are in second place after some impressive performances in the last few rounds, notching up 80 plus points in their last two games.Stratford/Eltham are third after being very competitive in the first round, coming off several years of being at the bottom of the table. Their recent win over New Plymouth Old Boys will provide some confidence heading into the second round.
New Plymouth Old Boys, Southern, Spotswood United, Inglewood and Clifton round out the rest of the table, although they are all still in touching distance of the top four. Clifton picked up their second win of the season over Southern on the weekend.
Coastal P7 W6 L1
Coastal has been known for being home grown and so far in 2017 they have started very well finishing on top after the first round. Their biggest challenge was against Tukapa three weeks ago and came through very well winning that match. They did lose a match to Inglewood but that hasn’t stopped them continuing to progress in this year’s competition. Their experienced players are all are having positive impacts this year which shows in the results. Blake Barrett, Jacob Gopperth and Troy Stevenson have had tidy performances of late with up and coming halfback Logan Crowley on the radar for higher honours.
Tukapa P7 W5 L2
When Tukapa get going they are on fire. The second place team and defending champions in Taranaki premier rugby have a number of key players with Blues lock Leighton Price and Taranaki loose forward Mitchell Crosswell clear standouts this year. Jayson Potroz, who has knocked up 100 points for the season already, including one hat-trick, has also had a very good first round and a key player in their victories to date. Even after Tukapa’s first round loss to Stratford/Eltham and Coastal they haven’t looked out of place to claim back-to-back titles. A penetrating backline has helped them pick up some high scoring wins late in the first round.
Stratford/Eltham P7 W5 L2 D1
After being disappointing for several years, Stratford/Eltham, in their first year being officially combined, sit in third place after the first round, a position they haven’t enjoyed for quite some time. The central Taranaki side has enjoyed some very good wins over Tukapa, Clifton, Spotswood United, Inglewood and New Plymouth Old Boys. Without too many new players, the hearty squad has got stuck in and delivered very well and good on them. Donald Maka, Matthew Kissick and Nick Childs have all performed well for their side. They have been battling away for a number of years and so far their perseverance has paid off. Stratford/Eltham are certainly top four contenders as they head into the second round if their form continues and confidence builds.
New Plymouth Old Boys P7 W3 L4
New Plymouth Old Boys have lost a number of key players due to some unlucky injuries or Super Rugby commitments which has put a strain on the side. The finalists from last year need a better second round if they want to be competitive in this year’s competition. However, there is a glimmer of hope as first five-eighth Daniel Waite made his awaited return to Premier rugby after suffering from concussion a year ago. With several players from last year’s New Plymouth Boys High School 1st XV the team has that opportunity to groom those players. With all their cattle, Old Boys can beat any team but went down in the final week of the first round to Stratford/Eltham and had a nail biting win over Spotswood United a week before so its clear teams are testing them.
Southern P7 W2 L4 D1
Southern seem to have all the players but fail to put consistent performances together evident with their win-loss record. With players like Jackson Ormond, Trinity Spooner-Neera and a big forward pack, their performances have been somewhat disappointing for a side that won the competition in 2013. Their wins have been against Inglewood and New Plymouth Old Boys with a draw against Stratford/Eltham. Coach Jason Hooper has expressed his disappointment for not stringing phases together and finishing off but the south Taranaki side is still in the competition heading into the second round but will need to keep their heads high after their recent loss to Clifton.
Spotswood United P7 W2 L5
Talk about being unlucky. Spotswood United have been pipped on so many occasions in the first round after doing everything right to win. With new assistant coach Matt Stone on board, their experienced players in Matt Goodwin, Jared Profit and Josh Hamilton play well but as a whole cannot do the extras to get the win. They have had narrow losses over Clifton, Southern and New Plymouth Old Boys and probably should have won those tight tussles but what they did in the end wasn’t enough. Their wins have been over Southern and Clifton. They have been affected by several players moving to Super Rugby which has also given an opportunity for other players to step up. Spotswood will need some fire power as they head into the second round as it could be a tough remainder of the campaign for them.
Inglewood P7 W2 L5
Inglewood haven’t really shone since winning the 2014 competition but too still in with a chance of making the play offs only a few wins away from the better half of the competition. Their forwards have performed well, but it’s the backline that is struggling leaking a number of tries, disappointing as they have traditionally strived on their defensive effort. They have welcomed back Taranaki representative Timo Tutuvaha from injury but miss Berny Hall (concussion) and Mitchell Brown (Super Rugby) up front. They need to put the foot down in the second round should they want to be in contention for the play offs with hard matches to come in their campaign.
Clifton P7 W2 L5
Clifton are another side who hasn’t had much luck so far this year. They are stacked with some impressive players, have a new coaching line-up and do everything right but can’t seem to finish it off. Their exciting yet young backline of Matty McKenzie, Meli Naholo and Liam Blyde have all the skill but have been let down so far this year. Their forward pack too is full of exciting players and with the return of prop Ryan Cocker that might add some confidence heading into the second round. They are still in realistic distance of the top four, despite only winning two matches this year, but need a few wins under their belt to make any chance of that.