Finals format settled after turnout reassures officials

Derek Dingle
Derek Dingle

Club finals day will now include all grades, after the Taranaki Rugby Football Union back-tracked on its plan to play its senior A final separately.

The proposal to have separate dates was put forward after Eltham-Kaponga opted to drop down from the senior A to the senior B competition.

With an extra team in the second tier competition, Taranaki Rugby initially believed it could not logistically fit in two extra rounds and semifinals before July 20 - the date set for club finals day.

That upset several clubs, with some arguing finals day would be "stuffed" if it did not include all grades.

Taranaki Rugby operations manager Derek Dingle said a compromise had been found late this week, with the senior B competition set to start a fortnight before the top grade.

The senior B teams will also be asked to play twice over Easter and a midweek night round has been added to the April schedule.

"We are trying, as much as possible, to have a mirrored competition between the A's and B's."

However, before Eltham-Kaponga were given the green light to compete in the senior B competition, the combined side had to show Dingle at training on Thursday they had at least 23 players, including five front-row options, who were able to front for the first week of the competition.

"They also had to have a colts team," Dingle said. "We set that down so we were not busting a gut if they didn't reach our requirements and were going to have to default during the season."

Dingle yesterday reported the south Taranaki club had the required player base to play.

He said the union thought it was important to try and help Eltham-Kaponga as much as possible, not only to foster the sport throughout the province but to offer a reasonable standard of rugby for senior players in the area.

"It would be very hard for a club if they went down to senior thirds to get back to a senior A or B level. By the same token, there are minimum requirements that had to be met," he said.

Clubs were yesterday informed of the changes and that the draft senior A draw had been ratified.

Meanwhile, 13 teams will line up in the senior third grade, which will be split into a top five, middle four and bottom four after the first round.

The colts grade will have 10 teams for the first round before New Plymouth Boys' High School and Francis Douglas Memorial College drop out.

Taranaki Daily News