The hits just keep on coming, and we saw some supposed upsets again. Kaik got the expected five points but Zingers made it work for them. I labeled AU the dark horses and they delivered in spades to put Southern to the sword at the Pony Pit. Taieri routed Harbor in the second spell to put the perfect 10 points on the board and it is halfway to making the six. Harbor is seriously short of a gallop and languish on one point from two starts and the six is a mountain away. GI rushed to nine points after thrashing Varsity, which has three bonus points to show for two weeks’ work, but they could be invaluable.
I think 18 points will get you into the mythical six, thus Taieri and GI are halfway home. Dunedin, Southern and Kaik sit on five with work to do and Varsity, Harbor and Zingers are yet to register a W and will be sweating.
The national under-20s comp, run through the franchises, started last year and is positioned to run in late March. Because of Covid, most clubs were praying it would be scrapped this year. But no, NZR decided it would run in late May, right in the middle of the club season. All the platitudes — “we seriously care about clubs and grassroots rugby” — are just that, platitudes. They’ve showed their true colors once again. Now I’m not blaming the Highlanders and Otago here. In fact, they have gone out of their way to alleviate the blow to clubs in Dunedin. But the fact is 30 players will be torn out of the club system for two games (a quarter of the season) in two weeks. Some clubs, notably Dunedin, Green Island and Varsity, will be dramatically affected. Dunedin will lose at least six players. A suggestion to the coaches — there are nine prem clubs in town, not three.
Looks like the days of simple maths and clubs going unbeaten for the season are gone. The mighty Cromwell Goats, unbeaten forever, have lost two in a row. Upper Clutha (Horse holders) were given a massive scare by Arrowtown at the weekend and Wakatipu is coming for the Horse this weekend. In the South, everybody has been beaten and my head hurts trying to pick winners and it’s only round four. In the North, it’s much the same. I picked Kurow to win it all and they were promptly beaten by Valley.
We’ve lost a couple of great rugby men recently. Steve Cumberland (Cumby), the Southern and Otago prop of the ’80s and ’90s, has been coaching at different levels for 20 years, and has been in Japan for a decade or more. He died suddenly a couple of weeks ago. Cumby was one of the gentlemen. He always had a smile on his dial and would chat to anyone. We’ve lost a great rugby bloke, and commiserations to Pam and the family — he will be sorely missed.
At the other end of the spectrum, 33-year-old Rikki McCall, a farmer at Owaka, died at the weekend on the road on his way home. I didn’t know Rikki but he was another genuine rugby man from Clutha Valley and Owaka. I have coached Owaka in the last two seasons. He was your true club man, the guy putting out the flags on Saturday morning. He leaves a young family behind and commiserations go out to you and your wider rugby community.
Clutha Valley played Toko last night, and Owaka plays Heriot tonight, so they can all attend the funeral at the Owaka club tomorrow. I hope it goes as well as it can.
I am the world’s worst tipster. Absolutely belted by Mike Casey from the Eels last weekend and on to Shark medic and life member Mel Reynolds this weekend, so I can’t go three from three surely? The Sharks (12-) hardly ever beat their nemesis Kaik and this should be no exception. But I’d rather help build the new floor and exacerbate the rift at the high veldt — Sharks, just. The Spannerheads have been winning and they are at the Toolbox, but I have a funny feeling AU (12 -) will upset them at home. Harbor (12-) visits Bastion Point to take on Zingers and it must get on the scoresheet or its season is most likely done. The Eels (13+) are at home and I think Varsity are three up, three down.
Took on “Potter” (Richard Pledger) last weekend and we were both awful. Taking on Clutha legend Neville (Bumpy) Grant, so I’m only hoping I can win. Clutha Valley (12-) continues righting the ship and accounts for high flying Toko. Heriot (12-) is at home to Owaka in what will be a highly emotional game and will just get it done. Clutha (13+) will be too strong for Clinton at home. The West Taieri Pigs (12-) might just tip over the Coal Miners at the Market Garden, but it’s a toss of the coin.
Word on the street is both the Highlanders and Otago had the opportunity to sign Owen Franks but both passed on it. Good to see we have such faith in our propping stocks.