Bulls hold key to finals race
September 25, 2014
Pirtek NZRL National Premiership - Bulls hold key to finals race
Fair to say, Cantabrians enjoy nothing more than to put one over on their rivals from Auckland.
Through most of the five-year history of the Pirtek NZRL National Premiership, the road to the title has inevitably passed through the nation's largest city. Apart from 2011, when Auckland Pride headed South Island Scorpions for the crown, the season climax has - almost inevitably - been a local derby.
So, you can imagine how chuffed Canterbury Bulls coach Darrell Coad is feeling to hold the balance of power in the 2014 national competition. Having already toppled four-time champions Akarana this month, his unbeaten side now has a chance to sweep the northerners when they visit Counties Manukau Stingrays on Saturday.
"We're pretty happy with how things have gone," he admits. "When I was appointed, we changed the structure and identified a few things that needed improving around the team.
"It helped getting some experienced guys back, with a mix of young guys. Once they came together, you could see them starting to gel, which is 80% of the job, really.
"We always knew we'd have to beat at least one of the Auckland sides to make the final, so we really put a lot of emphasis on that Akarana game, especially being at home."
Up until last weekend, the Stingrays had utterly dominated their lower-ranked opponents, but came unstuck against a Falcons outfit that was back to near full strength for a do-or-die encounter.
While that result leaves Canterbury sitting atop the ladder with the only unblemished record, it remains a precarious position, given Counties Manukau's overwhelming points-difference advantage (+166).
A loss could still see the southerners miss out in a three-way countback. A win would seal a finals berth and almost certainly eliminate the Stingrays from contention.
"We're well aware of the for-and-against situation and have really knuckled down at training this week," says Coad.
"It'll be a big challenge for us, but we still have our fate in our own hands. It would be a shame to miss out now after all we've achieved, but we've got the opportunity this week and see how things play out in the final round."
The Falcons should account for winless Northern Swords on the road on Sunday, but must still travel to New Plymouth for the tricky Central Vipers in the last round, two weeks away.
After failing to win at all last season, the fourth-placed Vipers (2-2) still have a mathematical chance of making the final, if the teams ahead of them falter over the last fortnight.
PIRTEK NZRL NATIONAL PREMIERSHIP
Saturday, September 27
1.30pm Counties Manukau Stingrays v Canterbury Bulls
Massey Park, Papakura
Stingrays: 1-George Edwards, 2-Raymond Taimale, 3-Lafu Feagaiga, 4-Zebastian Luisi, 5-Tomas Aoake, 6-Carlos Hotene, 7-William Stowers, 8-Pakisonasi Afu, 9-Jethro Friend, 10-Uila Aliolupo, 11-Sione Feao, 12-Dion Snell, 13-Eko Malu, 14-Terence Phillips, 15-Tony Tuia, 16-Paulos Latu, 17-Paul Tuli
Bulls: 1-Erwin Sauni, 2-Will-Tafua, 3-Bruce Havea, 4-Jack Mundy, 5-Cyrus Timo-Latu, 6-Toi Sepuloni, 7-Izic Placid, 8-Jaye Pukepuke, 9-Manu Weepu, 10-Chris Bamford, 11-James Baxendale, 12-Corey Lawire, 13-Agaese Fiso, 14-Alani Kakoi, 15-Dan Moevao, 16-Paradise Mann, 17-Paul Sauni
Referee - Shane Rehm Touch - Nathan Barker Pringle & Kiko Puhipi Hibbs
Sunday, September 28
2.30pm Northern Swords v Akarana Falcons
Toll Stadium, Whangarei
Swords: 1-Hori Tuhoro, 2-Waipu Stone, 3-Te Tuhi Tipene, 4-Ross McFarlane, 5-Tumoana Halkyard, 6-Moses Cooper, 7-Dean Schreurs, 8-Andre Lennox, 9-Joel Freeman, 10-Michael Salase, 11-Wiremu Snowden-Te Iringa, 12-Jordan Hool, 13-Kelsin Harding, 14-Chris Apoua, 15-Manu Tuhoro, 16-Israel Tahere, 17-Alex Salase
Falcons: 1-Mao Uta, 2-Saula Solomona, 3-Semisi Fotu, 4-Willie Peace, 5-Jeremiah Faaumuumu, 6-Sam Cook, 7-Cody Walker, 8-Kaleni Fraser, 9-Marcus Fraser, 10-Soape Kavaliku, 11-Malakai Houma, 12-Taylor Daniels, 13-Tulson Caird, 14-Semisi Mau, 15-Karl Simeti, 16-Lila Vaivai, 17-Trent Shaumkel
Referee - Lance Bullen Touch - Tane Kaiwai & Grant Wharehuka
1.30pm Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions v Central Vipers
Puketawhero Park, Rotorua
Stallions: 1-Caleb Heke, 2-Isaac Robinson, 3-John Koko, 4-Isaiah Cooper-Tetevano, 5-Hohepa Monk, 6-Johnson Peri, 7-Hayden Karena, 8-Hone Love-Henry, 9-Raureti Grace, 10-Lionel Skipworth, 11-Terry Kopua, 12- Cassius Dunn-Reid, 13- Marrin Haggie, 14-Raynard Haggie, 15-Mosese Mafi, 16-Riki Collier, 17-Tupara Tupara
Vipers: 1-Aaron Whitikia, 2-Jo Ratu, 3-Vai Kereti, 4-Che Barlow, 5-Tyson Young, 6-Cruze Rauner, 7-Dylan Hall, 8-Sione Sifa, 9-Travell Ngatoko, 10-Kele Kose, 11-Jarrod Morfett, 12-Wiremu McSeveny, 13-Willy Schuster, 14-Colin Hokianga, 15-Ale Feaunati, 16-Josh Kerr, 17-Gordon Karaitiana/Richard Gillies
NZ Rugby League would like to acknowledge and thank naming-rights sponsor of the NZRL National Premiership – Pirtek fluid transfer solutions – who is also major sponsor of the NZ Kiwis. In addition, Pirtek supports league through its NRL association with the Brisbane Broncos and Parramatta’s Pirtek Stadium.