Thriller in store for fans; Point might hold edge
Who will win the Hamersley Cup grand final this year?
Pleasant Point may just have enough juice in the tank to lift the Hamersley Cup tomorrow for only the second time in the club's history.
The top side after the round-robin was completed, they have made hard work of getting to the grand final and face a Celtic side chasing their fifth title in a row.
A big support crew is likely to travel into Alpine Energy Stadium to lift their side, whose only previous win came in 2005, having laid to rest the ghosts of seven previous failed attempts.
Celtic have plenty of depth across the paddock and have one big thing Point have struggled with, a reliable goal kicker in Willie Wright.
It has been the country side's Achilles heel but their pack showed plenty of discipline and gave away few kickable chances in the semifinal against Harlequins.
The Pleasant Point pack have plenty of experience and a front row to match Celtics.
Celtic, however, is a side capable of ripping the opposition apart but it is more likely it could be a moment of brilliance that seals the win.
Key players for Pleasant Point are their midfield combination of John Peeters and Michael Newman, who manage to find gaps in oppositions' defence.
Newman can also produce a clever sleight of hand which creates chances for those around him.
Celtic suffered a blow and is without playmaking halfback Sekope Maea so Wright moves in one, with Tanu Suavine at first-five.
Outside him Pat Tupuola has been in vintage form and could be the difference, especially from broken play where Celtic can be the most dangerous.
The forward packs are likely to go toe-to-toe but neither is likely to dominate and the excitement is likely to come out wide.
Celtic coach Nigel Walsh is a former Pleasant Point prop but there are no divided loyalties.
His assistant Pene Latu played in the 2005 final.
Pleasant Point coach Graham Sharp also donned the boots in 2005, rushing home from a long-planned holiday in Australia to play. The Mud Dogs won easily that day but this will be a tighter tussle.
There are survivors in both sides.Pleasant Point prop Aofia Fagalima scored two tries that day while John Peeters and Andrew Garton were key members in the victory and will be prominent again.
Point captain Grant McKerchar is another who always produces an honest 80 minutes, while Celtic captain Nick Strachan will hope he and fellow loose forwards Kalolo Tuiloma and Kali Latu can dominate at the breakdowns.
Walsh believes it will be a hard won victory for whoever takes it.
"It's good to see the No 1 and No 2 teams in the final. It should be a great spectacle as both like to play running rugby.
"You have to respect Pleasant Point, they finished on top and being a country team they will bring a lot of noisy support. But it could come down to the team, that makes the least mistakes."
Walsh said it was important his side kept to their game plan.
Pleasant Point co-coach Gavin Miller was wary of Celtic's depth and attacking ability.
"They have talented ball runners across the park, you give them space or make a mistake and they can hurt you. We are up for it, the boys realise grand finals don't come around very often."
It will also be a big day for referee Grant Day, who will celebrate his 100th senior game when officiating in the final.
In the Scott Cup (for the bottom four) competition, Waimate is expected to be too good for Geraldine.
South Canterbury coach Chester Scott will also name his first Heartland squad after the final has been completed.
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