Harlequins, Celtic targeted
The last two semifinal spots in the Hamersley Cup senior rugby competition remain up for grabs in the final second-robin games on Saturday.
Table-topping Harlequins and defending champions Celtic have daylight between them and the chasing pack and are assured of qualifying first and second.
It will also take a major upset for them not to make the grand final again on July 28.Celtic are shooting for their fourth title in a row, which would continue their club record-breaking run. If they do qualify along with Harlequins it will be their fifth grand final appearance in a row, showing just how dominant they have been at the business end of the season.
Waimate sit in third on 32 points, with Mackenzie and Temuka tied in fourth on 30 but three does not go into two and one team will miss out.
Waimate appear to have the easiest task with Old Boys visiting Manchester Park.
The Blues have struggled to put consistent performances together and sit bottom of the table with just a single win, over Temuka.
Last time they played Waimate the country side were 45-13 victors and should again bank at least four points, leaving them in third, which is the same finishing spot as last year.
At home, Temuka should be in a similar position facing Pleasant Point, who also have had a disappointing season.
The Magpies will, however, remember their 9-6 victory the last time the teams played and it could have been different had Pleasant Point landed their kicks at goal, so will be wary.
Temuka seem to have struggled against the lesser sides but performed well against those above them so will be keen to make the third and fourth playoff.
They seem the team most capable of knocking off either Harlequins or Celtic should they make it that far, having only been a tackle away from having the Harlequins scalp already.
Mackenzie have the toughest draw of the contenders hosting Harlequins.
The Rams will remember that the last time they played Harlequins at Strathconan Park they pulled off a major upset with a 35-33 victory, in the first round of 2011.
Mackenzie is a better side this year and their forwards have more firepower, but not many pundits will be picking them.
The outcome could also be influenced by the fact Harlequins have a number of injuries and the fitness of prop Timaru Tafa could be a key component, as he gives his side so much go forward.
They are also without their consistent goal kicker Scott Norton, who could be fit should they make the grand final.
Mackenzie is also without key forward Andrew Scarlett, who has undergone knee surgery, which won't help their chances.
Celtic host Geraldine in a game that means little but the defending champions will be keen to bag a four-try bonus point in case the unlikely happens at Fairlie.
It seems likely, however, Waimate will host Temuka at Manchester Park in the sudden death semifinal with the winner going on to play the loser of the Harlequins-Celtic clash.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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