Coastal aim to shore up at home vs Clifton
Figuring out how to reverse last week's results would have occupied a bit of time for the coaching staff at Inglewood and Coastal ahead of today's premier club semifinals.
In Coastal's favour will be the switch of venue from seven days ago when they fell 26-18 to Clifton at Tikorangi, while Inglewood co-coaches Ngatai Walker and Germaine Anaha have to contemplate leaving home and travelling to Vogeltown Park after their 31-25 loss to New Plymouth Old Boys.
Depending on how much stock one puts on home advantage, the two play-off matches appear reasonably even, though top qualifiers Old Boys must start clear favourites in their match given their second-round form and squad depth.
Sudden-death matches can do strange things to teams and those little home comforts can provide some mental advantages.
Old Boys co-coach Tony Earl was relaxed about his side's prospects, providing they played to their potential and stuck to the team's patterns.
They have been fortunate with the side they have put out, the loss of centre Sean Wainui the one exception, though he has been replaced by Simeon James, who has been playing professionally in the United Kingdom.
"Like we've said all along, anyone in the top six could beat anyone on their day and the boys know they are going to have to turn up in the right frame of mind and execute the game plan they have been given," Earl said.
"As Inglewood showed in the last half hour last week, if they get go-forward and we don't meet them up at the advantage line, they can be a dangerous side."
Old Boys have persisted with their wide, free flowing style in 2014 which has brought its own benefits, namely 11 bonus points, something that gave them an eight point buffer at the top of the table at the end of round robin play.
"We know what works and we've just been tinkering on doing some things better in certain places around the field," Earl said.
Improving their line speed in defence was top of the list, while Earl was urging continued improvement from a pack delivering at set-piece and causing opposition problems at the breakdown.
Walker was well aware of his opposition's strengths but believed his side could reach next week's final if they were more ruthless and efficient at the breakdown.
He was doubly keen for his team to shut down Old Boys halfback David Ormrod, one of the best players in the competition.
"He didn't start for them last week and when he came on he was more of a threat because he really gets them going." he said.
His biggest wish for his players to "stay in the fight" for the entire match, though he is also mindful of not letting the home side score easy points early.
A call on whether Chiefs hooker Rhys Marshall would sit on the bench would be made this morning.
Coastal coach Joe Lawn got a big dose of good news ahead of today's other semifinal after impressive blindside flanker Byn Hudson was cleared to play after spending five weeks on the sidelines with a neck injury.
Hudson was Coastal's best forward for much of the season and his return, coupled with the availability of captain Chris Barron and lock Jeremy Newall, was timely.
"It's certainly nice to be putting guys in instead of taking them out," Lawn said.
Cutting out a high number of unforced errors would help their cause no end, he said, as would playing positive rugby, while Coastal's scrum needs to show more steel after they were dominated throughout the second half as they blew an 18-0 lead.
"To be honest it's not something we can probably fix in one or two weeks and they have got some pretty good personnel in their front row. We have done some minor things but we've done more work in not getting caught in our 22 so, hopefully, we don't have 15 scrums on our own line."
Clifton coach Ian Snook saw the match venue as no impediment for his side making it to back-to-back finals, while he was also pleased with the way the players prepared during the week.
"I think they looked at their training last week and amongst themselves decided it wasn't good enough and they've upped the ante a bit," he said.
Snook felt last week's fightback and eventual win should have provided the confidence his side needed, as well as striking some doubt in the Coastal forwards' minds.
Although some of his players had theories as to why they started so poorly seven days ago, Snook said it had not been a talking point within the group as a whole. .
A referee's course in Wellington has taken out the top three ranked whisteblowers in the province, leaving William Johnston and Max O'Leary to control today's games.
Taranaki Daily News