Top two teams favoured to win premier rugby semifinals

outhern coach Jason Skipper insists they learnt a lot from their 39-24 loss to New Plymouth Old Boys last Saturday.

But have they learnt enough to reduce that 15-point margin and make it to their second premier club rugby final in three years?

Maybe.

Southern’s issues were reasonably clear to see. For starters, they need to keep their discipline and avoid being reduced to 14 men.

When that happened last Saturday Old Boys struck three times to open up a lead that was always going to be difficult to pull back.

They also need to be more accurate with their set piece, especially their lineout where they failed to take advantage of prime attacking positions because the ball was either overthrown or desperately slapped.

The last key point they need to focus on is their defence. Too often Old Boys were able to punch holes through their line close to the ruck or through their midfield.

Fix all those things, or at very least improve them, then they stand a chance.

Skipper appears to have strengthened his team by bringing prop Murray Turner and second five-eighth Dane Picot van Heuven into the starting line-up while the return from injury of No 8 Jesse Parete could be significant.

“I think one thing we did learn was we did not use the ball wide enough,” he said.

What he wants to happen was to have some of his outside backs, players like Sam Lawson and Trinity Spooner-Neera, given the opportunity to be one-on-one with an opponent.

If that happened then he’d back them more times than not.

Old Boys’ fans will be expectant of winning the semifinal.

Why wouldn’t they? Their team has gone through all 14 round robin games unbeaten, have scored more tries than any other side and proudly hold the best defensive record.

They have had a hiccup late in the season, however, with influential halfback David Ormrod ruled out of the reason of the campaign with concussion, adding another name to a long injury list.

What appears massively in their favour, though, is their ability to find a way to win, no matter what the situation.

In the other semifinal, Tukapa will start favourite to make it three wins this season over Coastal.

Just three weeks ago Coastal almost got blown off the park in the opening 20 minutes and they will be conscious of starting well and stopping Tukapa getting on the front foot early.

While Tukapa won their last meeting comfortably, they hit a bit of a speed bump last Saturday when Spotswood United came close to beating them.

Tukapa co-coach Laurence Corlett said they need to improve their defence from that game when they “were going too high” too often.

“It’s about attitude,” he insisted.

High on his priority list, apart from making improvements in their defence, was to stop giving away “silly” penalties, something that has been an issue tor them this season.

Coastal are well capable of winning.

They travel well, they have mature guys in key positions and they have the ability to strike from distance. They can also follow a game plan accurately which could be important if they don’t want their season to end.

At a glance

Semifinal No 1

New Plymouth Old Boys v Southern

2.45pm, Vogeltown Park

Referee: Cam Stone

NPOB: Logan Rei, Jack Carrington, Sione Ahokava, Jayden Ford, Paddy Pale, Liam McBride (c), Shaan Waite, Matt Wallace, Hamish Alabaster, Thomas McElroy, Trent Sutton, Willie McBride, Reuben O’Neill, Caleb Mawson, Blake Morgan. Reserves, Bevan Lowe, Hamish Mitchell, Dean Stewart, Mike Rubick, Josh Rei, Caleb Ritai.

SOUTHERN: Trinity Spooner-Neera, Sam Lawson, Jackson Ormond (c), Dane Picot van Heuven, Jade Taylor, Daniel Brooks, Sean White, Jesse Parete, Danny McDonald, Trent Pickering, Peter Northcott, Jon Smyth, Brody Norris, Todd Curtis, Murray Turner. Reserves, Jacob Northcott, Keith Mosley, Dylan Kerei, Daniel Parete, Regan Corbett, Brent Landers, Luke Taplin.

Semifinal No 2

Tukapa v Coastal

2.45pm, Sanders Park

Referee: Richard Kelly

TUKAPA: Jayson Potroz, Eli Kneepkens, Pomare Samupo, Isaia Tuifua, Daniel Bernet, Jack Cameron, Ryan Bishop, Mitchell Crosswell (c), Adrian Wyrill, Shay Moon, Alec Dravitski, Leighton Price, Brendan Dent, Liam Bernet, Baxter King. Reserves, Laurence Corlett, Kris Moller, Steven Needham, Scott Crocker, Codie Grayling, Lagen Kumeroa, Henry Miles.

COASTAL: David Walker, Thys van Der Poel, Thomas Watt, Johnny Fa’auli, Troy Stevenson, Emmett Hurley, Brett Goodin (c), Kelvin Weir, Dylan Jufferman, Blake Barrett, Dan Rae, Dylan Schuler, Mike Kainga, Sam Lawn, Liam Hurley. Reserves, Jimmi Ellis, Andy Weaver, Scott Mellow, Nick Lawn or Andrew Trolove, Jacob Gopperth, Jarrod Davey.

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