Old Boys seeking home comforts
New Plymouth Old Boys face an uncertain fortnight.
While assured of making the senior A club semifinals, given they beat fifth placed Southern twice in round robin play, Old Boys will not know if they are at home or away for their playoff until the final whistle of next week's round.
Given they have a bye next week, beating arch rivals Tukapa today will give them a good chance of hosting a semifinal, depending on other results next week.
Lose and they will have to rely on Coastal tripping up next week against Inglewood if they are to have any chance of being at Vogeltown Park on July 14.
There is also another key reason they do not want to slip up today. Having lost 21-15 to Coastal last week, the last thing Old Boys want is to have two losses beside their name heading into a sudden death match, especially with a week on the sidelines to think things through.
By their own admission they were poor last week.
"We just made too many mistakes," Old Boys captain Frazier Climo said yesterday.
"Passes that had been sticking just didn't stick and we let ourselves down because I don't think we were up for it, we were a little bit flat, really. This week we are taking a bit more of a relaxed approach because it's been a pretty big month for us, we've had all the big teams." Old Boys lost by a point when they met in round one, despite enjoying a mountain share of possession and territory.
One man who could help reverse that result is talented first five-eighth James Marshall whose match-up against Tukapa's Jack Cameron will be a game highlight.
"Our forwards have been told to muscle up and get some go forward to make his [Marshall] job easier," Climo said. "If the forwards can do that, then Jimmy [Marshall] should get us rolling. If we can get off to a good start, relax and play some good footy, then we will be better. We just have to relax and enjoy it because I think the occasion got to a few guys last time."
On his own form heading into Taranaki's representative season, Climo said he was well and truly over the hip injury that caused him concern earlier in the year.
"I'm feeling good and hopefully I can get some good ball and have a good run around."
Old Boys' ranks have been bolstered with former Taranaki midfielder Mark Stewart likely to see some game time. Stewart, who has been playing in Scotland for the past three seasons, has been bracketed with Adam Laititi at centre, who is in doubt because of a cut finger. If Laititi does play, Stewart looks certain to come off the bench.
Tukapa captain Tony Penn was also pleased a number of senior players had found their way back from injury for the business end of the competition.
Taranaki midfielder Isaia Tuifua has finally got a medical clearance to play after busting his arm several months ago, while wing Whaimotu Craft-Chemis should also return. Both men will come off the bench.
Penn felt the week off forced on them when Eltham-Kaponga defaulted seven days ago would do the squad minimal harm.
"It was obviously not ideal because past results in this competition show teams have struggled coming from a week off," he said. "It's going to be a challenge but we've stressed to the guys this week about their own preparation, so it will come down to mental application."
One of Tukapa's great strengths in 2012 has been their well organised defence, an area Penn felt would again be the key to beating Old Boys.
Elsewhere, Inglewood could extinguish Southern's hopes of a semifinal spot if they can beat Clifton at the TET Stadium.
Inglewood's last-minute try to deny Southern a bonus point last week pushed them six points ahead on the ladder, meaning Southern can not catch them if they win, even if Southern draw level on points at the end of next week's games.
Inglewood have the second best defensive record in the competition, which was evident last week, while Clifton have nothing to play for bar a higher finishing place outside the top four.
Stratford should make it two wins on the trot when they travel to Eltham to play an Eltham-Kaponga team that is likely to still be short on numbers.
Having knocked off Spotswood United last week, Stratford coach Chris Drummond should have little trouble motivating his side to make it two on end.
The first-round encounter was marred by an all-in brawl, something referee Paul Williams will be mindful of.
Southern's slim hopes of making the semifinals will be reliant on them beating Spotswood United at Yarrow Stadium.
With nothing to lose, Southern might find Spotswood a tough proposition, especially if they spread the ball wide where wing Waisake Naholo should be desperate to find some try scoring form.
Coastal have the bye.
Taranaki Daily News