Midlands faces Bluff juggernaut

DON WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2012

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Mossburn Stags rugby coach Jeff Manson has some valuable advice for his Midlands counterpart and long-time mate Steve Unahi ahead of tomorrow's division two semifinals.

Midlands is faced with trying to halt the Bluff juggernaut in one semifinal.

Blues and Wyndham do battle in the other, both games starting at 2.30pm, the first at Bluff and the other at Les George Oval.

Manson is the only coach to mastermind the downfall of Bluff this season.

Astute tactical application largely accounted for the Northern Southlanders toppling the Port team last month.

Mossburn did the seemingly impossible by shutting down the big one-off Bluff runners in the inside channel.

“That was our key to beating Bluff. If you let them run they will keep running," he explained.

“We beat them because of our defensive pattern in shutting down their inside channel runners."

Mossburn managed to repeatedly push their rivals back and close them down in tight quarters.

“Once they gain momentum they are up and away . . . It's as simple as that."

Manson lightheartedly said he had been expecting a phone call from Midlands coach Unahi for tips on how to beat Bluff.

“If he reads my comments in The Southland Times from this interview, he can save himself a toll call," he quipped.

In the final analysis, however, Manson thought his old club Midlands had a tough row to hoe against a team that was “clearly the best we have struck in the whole competition."

He agreed with many that the Blues-Wyndham clash was a tough one to call. Academically he might plump for Blues, he said, but he would be shot by his established mate Craig Fairbairn, Wyndham's co-coach, with whom he had a lengthy and close association.

“Craig is a former Mossburn lad and he wouldn't stand for me backing Blues."

Manson said Blues was “well drilled, well organised and strong" when Mossburn played them. Efficiency was the name of their game.

“However, Wyndham has a terrific influence to bring on in Davin Heaps, who has played the game as a professional hooker at the highest level and is a former captain of the Southland Stags and an All Black triallist."

Manson said that the Mossburn team found Wyndham was still developing earlier but “they are stronger now with more self-belief and are fit and fast. They have a good blend of young and old and will continue to improve. They have come a long way this season and I have heard some terrific reports on where they are at now."

Form and reputations will count for nothing tomorrow. It might boil down to whatever two teams most want to qualify for the grand final.

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This is the stage of the competition that will demand discipline and fitness to match the occasions.

- Southland

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