Tukapa’s Leighton Price attempts to ground the ball in last year’s final against New Plymouth OB. Price has been a key player for Tukapa.
The top four has been known for the last week or so, but it only came to light who was going to play who and where after the final round of matches last weekend.
There was a little bit of movement though after the final round with Spotswood dropping to fourth after losing to Coastal which meant Southern moved to third. Tukapa and Coastal were too far ahead for their home play-offs to be threatened.
Finishing on 42 points after the regular season, table toppers and defending champions Tukapa will host Spotswood United (29 points) at Sanders Park, less than a kilometre from Spotswood’s home ground and Coastal (39 points) will play Southern (30 points) at Rahotu this weekend.
For the first time since 1991 New Plymouth Old Boys missed out on the semi-finals due to an inconsistent year finishing in sixth place with 19 points. They were beaten in the final round by Stratford/Eltham to take fifth place on 24 points. Stratford/Eltham had an excellent first round beating defending champions Tukapa in the opening weekend, but weren’t up to their best in the second round suffering some tight losses.
Inglewood avoided the wooden spoon finishing on 18 points, with Clifton dead last with 3 wins to their name this season with 13 points.
Referee: Cam Stone
Tukapa’s season didn’t start off well as they were beaten by Stratford/Eltham in the first week of club rugby but only managed to drop two other matches both against Coastal, who they might well meet in the final.
Their 56-7 win over Inglewood in terrible conditions last weekend will give them confidence heading into this weekend’s match – although the weather is forecast to be better. They have showed they can play in any conditions especially at their home ground Sanders Park which can be exposed to winds from any direction.
Both teams are stacked with plenty of representative players including Leighton Price, Pomare Samupo, Isia Tuifua, Mitchell Crosswell and Adrian Wyrill for Tukapa. Several other players from Tukapa have also put their hands up for high honours including Jayson Potroz who has played the majority of the season at first five-eighth in place of Jack Cameron who has been unavailable for most of the season.
However, Potroz will start at fullback for the semi-final and Cameron has been given the nod to start at 10.
Potroz finished the regular season as the highest points scorer.
Spotswood United, who has never won a championship title’s playing roster is equally impressive with Jared Profit, Latu Vaeno, Warwick Lamhert, Josh Hamilton and Matt Goodwin all have played representative level in some capacity. Hamilton has been bracketed to start at fullback due to a leg injury sustained a fortnight ago.
Originally a halfback and former England international sevens player, Lamhert has switched to second five-eighth this season and has added some control into the backline thanks to his experience. He was rested for their final round clash against Coastal but will be back again for Spotswood United’s all important semi-final.
Toa Halafihi will start for Spotswood United on the side of the scrum after being released from the Hurricanes.
They have had a split year with seven wins and seven losses to their name.
Tukapa pipped Spotswood United only a few weeks ago 24-17. On the weekend of Tukapa’s 125th Jubilee Tukapa beat Spotswood 32-8.
Spotswood United on their day can beat anyone, but you’d expect Tukapa to come out on top in this one.
Last Tukapa semi-finals: 2016 (beat Coastal)
Last Tukapa final: 2016 (beat NPOB)
Last Spotswood semi-final: 2015 (lost to NPOB)
Spotswood Old Boys Rugby Club made the final in 1990 then amalgamated with Star RFC in 1991. Spotswood United first made the final in 1996 but were beaten.
TUKAPA: Jayson Potroz, Daniel Bernet, Pomare Samupo, Henry Miles, Liam Ward, Jack Cameron, Ryan Bishop, Mitchell Crosswell (c), Adrian Wyrill, Shem Setu, Steven Needham, Louis Duffels des Forges, Scott Mellow, Ben Siffleet, Luke Dravitzki. Reserves, Devron Phillips, Brendon Dent, Drew Whitehead, Scott Crocker, Codie Grayling, Jimi Webley, Brook Gray.
SPOTSWOOD UNITED: Josh Hamilton or Brayden Byrne, Latu Vaeno, Frank Tawake, Warwick Lahmert, Nick Arnold, Josh Perrett, Alex Gawler, Pita Sowakula, Toa Halafihi, Ethan Perrett, Micaiah Torrence-Read, Jacob Bourke, Sione Sifa, Matt Goodwin (c), Jared Proffit. Reserves, Kaleb Nolly, Asa Sorovaki, Kane Perrett, Enele Fidow, Layne Connell, Byrne or Mitch Aro, Salesi Havea.
Referee: Richard Kelly
Second placed Coastal will host third placed Southern in the remaining semi-final at the Rahotu Domain.
After last weekend’s final match against Spotswood United, there is hope the domain has recovered from consistent rain which lingered around for most of the game ripping up the field and leaving plenty of puddles around the ground.
There were whispers that the semi-final could be moved to nearby Okato which is one of three home venues for Coastal.
Should the ground be puggy though, it will be an interesting battle up front as both teams have strong forward packs. Coastal are able to adapt to the conditions evident to last weekend’s win.
This might well be the tightest semi-final of the two with the playing record split this year between the two sides. Southern beat Coastal in Rahotu by 17-7 only a few weeks ago but Coastal took out the win in the first 37-17 in Hawera.
Coastal doesn’t have too many stars from a representative perspective but have heavily relied on former Taranaki halfback Brett Goodin who has moved to 10 to allow for Taranaki halfback Logan Crowley to do his trade. Goodin does have extreme experience to lead the backline.
The loose forward trio is also impressive with Blake Barrett and Dylan Juffermans key to their side. They have suffered a blow as reliable number 8 Kelvin Weir is on his overseas experience leaving a bit of a hole but the likes of Jeremy Newell has taken that spot.
The backline is stacked with talented locals as Troy Stevenson, who played his 50th game last weekend, has showed he has plenty of pace in space and Rick McKenna has plenty of experience at fullback.
Southern too have a big forward pack and have gone through the season relatively quietly winning seven matches, six losses and a draw against Stratford/Eltham.
They will rely on Taranaki representatives Trinity Spooner-Neera and Jackson Ormond in the backline with the front row battle due to be tough. Jon Smyth will notch up his 100th match in one of his most important game to date, outside of the 2013 final.
Halving competition points after the first round would have helped Southern as they were on the verge of not evening making the top four – but their consistent home town advantage has helped.
The 2013 champions lost five games in the first eight weeks but had a better second round which was the difference compared to other teams who missed out.
Coastal’s form throughout 2017 might be the telling blow for Southern as Club Rugby expects it to be a Tukapa v Coastal final at Yarrow Stadium next weekend.
On the contrary, if Spotswood United and Southern made the final would be great for rugby in the province.
Last Coastal semi-final: 2016 (beaten by Tukapa)
Last Coastal final: 2014 (beaten by Inglewood)
Coastal’s last title was in 2012 when they beat NPOB 17-16.
Last Southern semi-final: 2016 (beaten by NPOB)
Last Southern final: 2013 (beat Clifton)
COASTAL: Rick McKenna, Troy Stevenson, Mike Summerell, Jacob Gopperth, Thys van der Poel, Brett Goodin (c), Logan Crowley, Dylan Juffermans, Blake Barrett, Jeremy Newell, Andrew Lane, Dylan Schuler, Andrew Trolove, Cal Davies, Liam Hurley. Reserves, Lance Graves, Mike Kainga, Sam Lawn, Daniel Rae, Laurent Giucal, Liam Parker.
SOUTHERN: Jackson Ormond (c), Jade Taylor, Dane Picot van Heuven, Cody McGrath, Josh Thompson, Brent Landers, Sean White, Kieran Prestidge, Danny MacDonald, Daniel Hornby, Peter Northcott, Jon Smyth, Brody Norris, Todd Curtis, Jacob Northcott. Reserves, Te Kepa Grindlay, Mikaere Bell, Daniel Parete, Josh Sandford, Robert Northcott, Murray Turner.