FINALS FEVER! Minor Semi’s – Sunday 27th July – Toll Stadium

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This week will see the Minor Semi-Finals of the RLN MultiKai Cooker Premiership.  Round 16 completed over the weekend played out to script with no surprises.

The Hikurangi Stags secured 2nd place and the week off, as they defeated the Moerewa Tigers 36 – 6 in a match that didn’t reflect the scoreline.  It was the Tigers who got out to the early lead looking to play the spoilers.  However, the Stags showed that they were able to play a controlled, structured game of footy, even without inspirational Player/Coach Joe Rau. Te Tuhi Tipene and Moses Cooper stuck to the game plan and lead the team with control, feeding the Edmonds brothers, Joachim and Zab on the left flank.  The Tigers played till the 80th minute, demonstrating the potential they showed in the last half of the season.

Portland won back the Ville Salase Memorial Trophy in a 17 – 16 thriller in Dargaville, against the Northern Wairoa Bulls.  The Ville Salase Memorial – always played during the last round between the Panthers and the Bulls – is played to commemorate Ville, a Portland legend who at the age of 49 collapsed and died on the paddock in 2006.  The Bulls were the current holders of the trophy, after the Panthers held it for the first 7 years.  The 17 – 16 scoreline will give both teams confidence going into Semi’s.

The Panthers’ opponents this week are the Otangarei Knights, who ended a spirited Muriwhenua Kuaka’s season 52 – 20.  While the Bulls opponents, will be the Hokianga Pioneers, after they ended the Kerikeri Makos season 40 – 10.  Both the Kuaka and the Makos have had tough seasons – but they never capitulated.  If both teams have good off-seasons they can come back competitive in 2015.

Takahiwai round out the top six as they secured the Minor Premiership with a dominant display to round out Horahora’s season 54 – 4.  The Top 6 being confirmed as:

  1. Takahiwai Warriors
  2. Hikurangi Stags
  3. Hokianga Pioneers
  4. Otangarei Knights
  5. Portland Panthers
  6. Northern Wairoa Bulls

Takahiwai and Hikurangi have the first week off.  This week’s games are Sunday July 27th at Toll Stadium:

1pm:  Hokianga Pioneers v Northern Wairoa Bulls

This will be an action packed match.  Their previous match was abandoned with the scores at 22 – 16 to the Pioneers while their Round 1 match was a closed fought affair with the Pioneers winning 24 – 22.  Both teams play a similar style of football which would best be described as Power football.  With big teams across the paddock they play on the back of power running and support.

The Pioneers should go into this match as favourites.  They have had a strong finish to the season and been consistently in the Top 4, while the Bulls have never really reached their potential in 2014.  They have shown glimpses of form but have been inconsistent.  However, finals football is a different scenario and the Bulls will test the Pioneers for 80 minutes and if things click on the day can provide a major upset!

3.00pm:  Otangarei Knights v Portland Panthers

This match should be epic.  Both the Panthers and the Knights have consistently been in the Top 6 this year.  The Knights have shown in 2014 that they are true Premiership contenders.  When they focus they can click and when they do, they are unstoppable, playing an expansive wide game of footy on the back of passionate running, combined with Herewini Edmonds’ and Linn Hunapo’s, slick passing game.

The Panthers play a very structured and controlled game.  They have a big mobile pack, led by the friendly giant Michael Gawn.  They have speed and power out wide in the form of Levi McQueen and Kelsin Harding which is fed by a devious Fats (Madisyn) Kaka at Dummy Half.  Portland have struggled throughout the year to lock out tight matches, however they would have gained confidence from their 17 – 16 win over the Bulls.

In their previous meeting in 2014 the Knights were too dominant winning 50 – 22.  They were scheduled to have met in the Rd 15 cancelled round.

Major Finals – August 2nd Toll Stadium

Hikurangi Stags v (winner Hokianga v Northern Wairoa) at 1:00pm Takahiwai Warriors v (winner Otangarei v Portland) at 3:00pm

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