Clubs turn on a vintage season

UPS AND DOWNS: Spotswood United never got to celebrate at the end of the season as they did during it.
UPS AND DOWNS: Spotswood United never got to celebrate at the end of the season as they did during it.

The weekend's final round of premier rugby matches typified what a great competition it has been in 2014.

Fittingly, the top six teams all faced each other, with each match close right to the end.

It's how it has been all season.

It's hard to know exactly why those six teams - New Plymouth Old Boys, Coastal, Inglewood, Clifton, Tukapa and Spotswood United - were so evenly matched.

It could be simply because the talent is evenly spread, or it might be because the standard of coaching is higher, given they all have video analysis at their disposal.

Whatever the reason, predictions that club rugby is dying is well off the mark, around these parts at least.

It is also a nonsense for those people who continually harp on about how club rugby was so much better years ago.

Sure, we no longer, or very rarely, get All Blacks or even Super Rugby players trotting out but those left still turning out are better prepared than they used to be.

The most vocal critics of club rugby are usually the ones who never go, the ones who give their ill-informed arguments from the confines of somewhere else on a Saturday.

Those who do turn out, and there have been good crowds at just about every top six venue, have been treated to matches when it has been extremely difficult to pick a winner.

Most of the clubs have also been proactive.

Clifton started the trend, dressing up their home ground and introducing a variety of entertainment for patrons.

They have been followed by other clubs who have not been scared to try different things to get people through the gate.

Over the past 14 weeks there has also been plenty of stories within each game and from within every team.

There have been some cliffhanger matches, some unbelievable comebacks and plenty of talent popping up in most positions.

Tukapa's 36-33 win over Old Boys, when they were 20-odd points behind heading into the second half, Inglewood scoring last gasp tries to draw and win matches, Old Boys' attacking style, Coastal's consistency and Spotswood United's continued resurgence are just a few highlights that spring to mind.

There have also been some heart breaking moments.

No matter where your loyalties sit, it was not hard to feel a level of sympathy for the Spotty Dogs who looked like they had a team truly capable of winning the title, only for things to fall apart off the back of an astonishing and crippling injury list at the very time they needed the opposite to happen.

They also didn't get that little bit of luck a team needs sometimes and will be hurting in the knowledge that for a second year in a row they were just inches away from from qualifying.

Had they scored in the corner against Clifton or not conceded a last-second try to Inglewood then things would be very different for them this week.

Nevertheless, the semifinals are upon us and promise to be just as intriguing as the past 14 weeks.

The only sad thing is that it's all going to be over in a fortnight.

Taranaki Daily News