Teams stick with tried and true
Don't change a winning formula; if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Regardless of which cliche fits best, the rationale is simple and is exactly what Biddy Kates Central and Moutere have followed leading up to the Marlborough premier club rugby competition grand final at Lansdowne Park tomorrow.
Naming an unchanged 22-man squad is rare in any senior rugby competition, let alone in Marlborough, so the fact that both teams have been able to do that after their semifinal victories is a feat in itself. However, that will count for little for either side if they are unable to do the business in the season-ending title decider.
The most consistent premier team all season, there can be few disputes that Central go into the match as healthy favourites. And after they walloped Harlequins 65-14 in the semifinals last weekend, the Blues' odds shortened even further.
Tony Katting, coach of the only Marlborough club to reach the Tasman Trophy semifinals, said his players understood the expectation on them, but were by no means getting ahead of themselves.
" . . . I have been reminding them this week . . . in any finals rugby there is always a measure of doubt.
"There was a feeling before last Saturday's game that they really wanted it and the mood in the camp is exactly the same this week."
Central's success this year has been based on a dynamic forward pack and a backline with a potent mix of speed and power, but there is no doubt the loose trio of Reyne Volavola, Adam Goldsworthy and Kaleni Taetuli have been at the heart of their effort. The all-Red Devils trio are powerful ball-runners and solid defenders, but also never shirk their responsibilities at the breakdown.
The inclusion, once again, of Blues Super Rugby hooker Quentin MacDonald is also significant, while props John Pale and Riley Luke play a key role up front and have anchored a scrum that has given their backs front-foot ball throughout this season. Hoping for more of that tomorrow will be Fijian wing Willie Umu. Fresh off a blockbusting performance last week, Umu is someone Moutere will need to keep a close eye on.
Central have more than just one threat in the backs, though. Fullback Sam Aolele has pace to burn, while veteran Onolevu Temo and Jake Creswell form a handy midfield duo.
The Blues were superb in the first half of their demolition of Quins, and Katting has hopes for more of the same.
"The accuracy and pace we played with and the way our systems worked, you wouldn't change that, would you."
Moutere's semifinal victory over defending champions Waitohi was much tighter and hard fought, but it typified the strength of this gutsy young crop of Magpies.
Their success has been built on a hard-working forward pack that includes a couple of strong ball-runners, and a backline that has no real stars but is more than capable on its day.
The Magpies finished last in 2012 and co-coach Laurin Gane said because they had already achieved more than their initial goal of reaching the semis, excitement had prevailed over nerves this week.
"The mood at training has been excitement. We haven't been [in a final] since 2006 . . . it's exciting for the club to be back there.
"Dave [McCormick, co-coach] and I are already very proud of all the boys and they've stuck to it all year. They are having fun and are all mates and I think that's the only way you get better as a team unit."
The key men up front for Moutere are Tasman Makos hooker Francis Smith, veteran lock Warwick de Waal and impressive loose forwards Brigham Hart, Haven Walsh and Baxter Wilson. Smith and de Waal always toil hard and bring valuable experience, while the young loose trio have got stronger as the season went on and will not be backing down to their highly rated Central counterparts.
Skipper Benji Keenan, fellow wing Regan Marshall, centre Chris Ranstead and fullback Noah Taio are all dangerous in open space, while Taio's goal-kicking has played an important role in getting the Magpies to the final.
Most finals are won and lost in the forwards, and Gane felt that would prove the case tomorrow. Although he acknowledged Central were favourites and expected a close encounter, he remained full of belief that his side could get the job done.
"Central are very good . . . but this is finals rugby. I think both teams will cancel each other out for most of the game and it could come down to one play or one bounce of the ball. This is another step for us, but I'm confident the 22 we have can do the business."
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Premier grand final: Biddy Kates Central v Moutere (2.50pm kickoff)
CENTRAL: Sam Aolele, Anton Tiumalu, Jake Cresswell, Onolevu Temo, Willie Umu, Gareth Smith, Willie Alaiasa, Kaleni Taetuli, Adam Goldsworthy, Reyne Volavola (c), Dan Crockett, Jeremy Foley, Riley Luke, Quentin MacDonald, John Pale. Subs: Johnny Tiueti, Tupo Sau, Charlie Shuttleworth, Matt Gibson, Wayne Young, Simi Volavola, Daniel van Waas. Coach: Tony Katting.
MOUTERE: Noah Taio, Benji Keenan (c), Chris Ranstead, Noah Waaka, Regan Marshall, Grant Coles, Ben Smith, Baxter Wilson, Haven Walsh, Brigham Hart, Willie McCormick, Warwick de Waal, Phil Paparella, Francis Smith, Lockie McCormick. Subs: Jordan Hart, Zeb Muraahi, Kaleb Avery, Luke Scott, Andrew Purua, Malcolm Tairea, John Tavares. Coaches: Dave McCormick and Laurin Gane.
Previous results between the two teams in 2012:
Round one: Moutere 14 Central 38.
Round two: Central 41 Moutere 21.
Referee: Dave Woodhouse.
Senior division two final: Pelorus v Central (12.50pm kickoff)
Pelorus: Jason Smith, Reuben Uatuku, Peter Tapp, Jason Marsh, Hone Abraham, Lance Mackel, Charles Neal, Amco Cassidy, Nathan Wallace, Johnny Horton, Tim Archie, Brad Horton, Julius Bradley, Jackson Gill, Rikki Bovey, Noel Godsiff, Joshua Wallace, Kieran Cherrington-Wills, Ashley Gardiner, Uriah Scoon, Mitchell Luscombe-Gale, Corey Bovey.
Central: Greg Wratt, Bradley Norton, Jonty Burdon, Corban Phillips, Michael Pettigrew/Emerick Mourrat, Tatana Mita, Thomas Prestage, Barry Houkamau-Sollitt (c), Rata Rawhiti, Rawiri Tamiti, Drew Roberts, Glenn Smith, Allan Dinnan, Ray Roebeck, Nick Malins (vc), Subs: Francis Roebeck, Michael Fitzpatrick, Emerick Mourrat/Alex Drake, Jamie Sigmund, Richard Franklin, Thomas Mu, Cory Vis. Coach: Buck Mitchell. Assistant coach: Patrick Norton.
Previous results between the two teams in 2012:
Round one: Central 28 Pelorus 28.
Round two: Pelorus 30 Central 19.
Referee: Peter Watson.
Weather forecast: Fine, northwest breeze, high 15 degrees Celsius.
- The Marlborough Express