Tasman Titans aiming to earn home final
There are no shortcuts in rugby league as every metre is hard fought, yet you still have to be good enough to take advantage of an opponent's error should they make a crucial mistake.
So when the Tasman Titans were promoted to the top of the South Island Districts rugby league series with a chance to claim a home final, the feeling was "hollow" but the opportunity has the side "excited".
The Tasman Titans will book a home final if they can beat the Otago Whalers at Trafalgar Park tomorrow after defending champions and unbeaten competition leaders Canterbury were effectively booted out of the competition.
No semifinals were scheduled, so if Tasman beat Otago in the final round-robin match, set to kick off at 2.30pm tomorrow, they will advance to the final against Southland and host the match as the top-placed qualifier. A narrow win by the visitors will see Otago host the final against Tasman.
Tasman can still miss out on a ticket to the big dance by losing to Otago by five points or more, which will see Otago host the final against Southland. As it stands, Tasman hold their finals fate in their own hands and everything rests on tomorrow's result.
With all of Canterbury's matches this year declared null and void, Tasman now lead the competition on points differential with wins over the West Coast Chargers and Southland Rams. The 26-10 loss to Canterbury at Trafalgar Park in round three has been wiped and Tasman are unbeaten, if only on the points table.
"It's a bit of a shame because we gauge ourselves against Canterbury and they got us in the first game and we were hoping to meet them again in the final," said Tasman coach Phil Bergman.
"That leaves a little bit of a hollow feeling that we are not going to get another shot at them.
"But at the same time we are excited by it because if we can get the job done this weekend we will have a home final, which is terrific for Tasman rugby league and a real shot in the arm for the game up here." Bergman said the edge defence had been a major focus this week as they come up against a team that has scored 90 points in two games. Last year Otago beat Tasman 40-30 in a close game played in Christchurch, but being at home will give Tasman an advantage, especially if a strong and vocal crowd turns out.
"We have been working on getting a bit of speed in our slide defence - all the tries coming against us are coming out wide. We are rapt that they aren't coming through the middle, but no-one should go around us - we are a good defensive side.
"They are a big mobile side and we have our work cut out, but it's a challenge and that's what we love.
"We will have to do the business against Otago and that is no easy task, but no-one is going to come up to Trafalgar Park and get an easy game."
Tasman will produce an act that is rarely witnessed at this level of rugby league by fielding a lineup unchanged from the team that beat Southland 32-30 in Invercargill last weekend.
With all the recent foul weather and the storm that broke on the competition yesterday, fine weather is forecast for tomorrow and Tasman will want their day in the sun.
Lucas Bennett, Kaiapa Paul, Callum Smith, Sam Hedges, Jamein Bristowe (captain), Rangi Ngaruhe, Hayden Smith, Temaio Piripi, Troy Wilson, James Piukala, Shannon Telfar, Jarrod Albert, Johnny Delore. Reserves: Nick Andrew, Te Atawhai Meechang, Freedom Walker, Hoani Takao.
- The Nelson Mail