Harlequins to face Celtic again
Harlequins will be heading to the Hamersley Cup grand final after proving too tough for Mackenzie in Fairlie.
Two late tries at Strathconan Park gave the Rams the 28-23 scoreline some respectability, but in essence Harlequins were too good, up 28-9 mid-way through the second half.
To their credit Mackenzie hung tough, but by then Harlequins had emptied their bench and their fullback Paula Fifita was in the bin for a team infringement too many.
For Mackenzie, it killed off their dream of lifting the silverware they last won in 2003.
The result means Harlequins will face defending champions Celtic for the sixth time in seven years, but unlike in some previous seasons both sides certainly had to fight for their spots.
Mackenzie had finished top qualifier after the round robin but injuries hurt them at key moments, while Harlequins will be hoping to be the first team to win the Hamersley Cup from third spot, having already survived two sudden death semi-finals.
That won't be easy as Celtic try for an unprecedented sixth crown in a row since grand finals were introduced.
At Fairlie both sides were piped on to the field but the music stopped quickly after Harlequins scored in just two minutes.
A clever skip-pass from first five Scott Norton gave centre Hau Kaumatule some space and he ran strongly and finished with a good off-load for Fifita to score.
With 15 minutes gone a rampant Harlequins side were in again after Fifita made another strong run and slipped the ball away in the tackle for Matt Young to score.
In between Norton had landed a penalty and the hosts were down 13-0 and struggling to get their hands on the ball.
Mackenzie then started to make some good tackles, stopping Harlequins momentum and battled away, with George Williams landing one of two penalties attempts to make half-time 13-3.
The Rams captain Stu Cartwright also went down in what looked like a serious injury but managed to recover and return to the field.
The second half started like the first with a penalty to Norton and then with four minutes gone Fifita was on hand to score again after a great break Kaumatule to make it 21-3.
Then with quarter of hour gone, Fifita was again in the action with a good run.ntsD and nte Norton found speedster Maile I'Ongi, who scored.
Norton added the extras and the game was gone at 28-6.
Williams added a penalty and Mackenzie blew a couple of opportunities when ball runners decided to head back into the traffic when they had overlaps outside.
In a frantic final five minutes Mackenzie first five Walker Jacobs scored a couple of good tries with strong runs close to the line.
In the end Harlequins key men stood up when it mattered most.
While the hard running Sam Vea was a late withdrawal as his first baby was on the way, he was hardly missed.
Number 8 Josateki Veikune had a huge game while in the backs Kaumatule and Fifita were just too good.
Veteran loose forward Craig Miller had a good game as did Tui Tauelangi and captain Nathan Tubb.
Englishman Harry Lewis was also a tower in the lineout, also grabbing several Mackenzie throws.Halfback Jordan Hooke Hooke and Norton were good conduits for the men outside them, while stand in second five Joel Tuiaki made some good runs early.
Mackenzie's pack were good in the scrums and at the breakdowns but their lineout was wobbly.
They did not however have the ball runners to match Harlequins.
For the Rams front rower Aaron McCall was strong while open side Jarrad Blackler was in everything.
Lock Andrew Scarlett showed some good skills especially on the kick-offs and Cartwright never gave up.
Second five Fa'aitu Tuamoheloa tried to get his backline firing while fullback Williams showed some nice touches, both kicking and ball in hand.
Harlequins coach Colin Cameron was pleased overall with his side's efforts.
''We played very well at times but often we are our own worst enemies. To Mackenzie's credit they never gave up.''
Mackenzie coach Justin Geary was disappointed for his team.
''It was just not our day, no-one wants to come third. We've had a bloody good season, the team culture was great and we had the self belief but just couldn't get there.''
Harlquins open side Gareth Holden will be out of the grand final however after sustaining a neck injury.
Temuka beat Old Boys 19-10 after leading all the way and will face Pleasant Point in the final.
For Temuka, hooker Cody Hilligers and second five Tenaru Saumani impressed.
In the senior B competition Geraldine proved too good for Harlequins in their unique 10 minute play-off scoring 10 points courtesy of a converted try and penalty.
In the end it didn't matter as Pleasant Point then won the sudden death semi 23-14 and will face Waimate on Saturday in the final.
The Timaru Herald