The Rogues Rant #222

Welcome to The Rogues Rant, an occasional look at all things Rugby

The 2019 Finals Venues have been finalized with the big NRC match between The Country Eagles and the Fijian Drua confirmed for Grand Final day at WIN Stadium on Saturday 14th September. The Major Semi Finals for First and Second Grade will be played at Eridge Park, Bowral on Saturday 31st August, with the Minor Semis to be played at Ocean Park, Woonona on Sunday 1st September. The traditional four team final series applies with the winners of the major semi going straight to the GF and the losers going to the Prelim Final to be played at Vikings Oval on Saturday 7th September. The winner of the Minor Semi goes to the Prelim Final to play off for a place in the GF while the loser is eliminated. The Third Grade comp will be a six team final series with the top two sides having a bye in week one of the finals. Teams finishing third to sixth will play off in week one at Bowral and Woonona, with the winners going on to the second week to play against the top two for a place in the Third Grade Grand Final.  

What a great win by the Wallabies last week in Perth. The National Selectors got it right with Nick White at Halfback having a blinder and combining very well with Fly-Half Christian Lealiifano. James O’Connor vindicated his selection with a display which showcased his undoubted attacking skills, while Kurtley Beale at the back made an emphatic claim on the number 15 jumper. But it was upfront where the difference was with the forwards showing a physicality that has not been seen in a Wallaby side for a long, long time. The standout performances came from the backrowers with Locks Izack Rodda and Rory Arnold uncompromising against their opponents. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Isi Naisaraani were not far behind in the tight stuff throughout. The inspirational performance from skipper Michael Hooper, who never took a backward step all night, was outstanding. The selectors have been forced to make one change to the starting lineup for Eden Park with Rory Arnold not playing this week due to a hand injury. Adam Coleman will start with Qld Reds rookie Liam Wright going onto the bench for his debut. There is heaps of press in New Zealand calling on the All Blacks to bash the Aussies and retain the Bledisloe. The Aussies know what it takes to stop that happening and will need to be just as physical and some this week to get the job done. What a match it promises to be. Who’ll win? I’ll go for the Wallabies!

David Pocock won’t be making his return for the Wallabies this week in Auckland after all. Word is that he will return against Samoa with a view to being right for the World Cup. He virtually hasn’t played any football this year because of that leg injury and to have selected him for this week would have been ridiculous. Coach Cheika says he will play against Samoa and given the World Cup squad is due to be announced before that match it looks like Pocock will definitely be on the plane to Japan.

With two rounds to go locally the final make-up of the semis will go right down to the final round of matches. It will take a couple of major upsets to change the look of the Major Semi. Avondale can’t be displaced at this stage but Bowral could be overtaken should they have any more stumbles over the last two rounds. A loss for Vikings this week could see them fall out of the top four and be overtaken by both Shamrocks and University. Shamrocks and University on form should win both their remaining matches leaving all the pressure on Vikings who must win against either Avondale or Bowral to be any chance of surviving. In a nut shell Vikings have to win one or both of their last two and Shamrocks and University have to lose one of theirs for Vikings to survive. Shamrocks travel to Camden to take on a Rams side that dramatically lost their way last week against Campbelltown. With Shamrocks having everything to play for and Camden looking toward 2020, there can only be one result here. Shamrocks to Win. Shoalhaven hosts Bowral at Nowra and after a season of inconsistent performances would like nothing more than to knock off the Premiers. The Blacks will want to get back to their best form after their last start loss to Camden with the finals around the corner. I think they can here. Bowral to Win. Tech Waratahs host Kiama at Saunders Oval in what should be a close encounter. It’s a very hard one to get a line on with both sides showing up and down form throughout the year. Despite the home ground advantage I think that the Cows can just get away with this in a close one. Kiama to Win. University has a must win match at home against Campbelltown who registered their first win of the year last week against Camden. With so much at stake for the students I can’t see them letting this one slip. University to Win. Match of the Round is at Vikings Oval with odds on Minor Premiers Avondale visiting. Vikings have it all to do in a must win situation, while the Wombats will want to keep winning form going into the finals. Avondale seem to have the wood on Vikings in recent years and the Blueys will need to bring their best form for this one. I don’t think we will see a thirty six point margin in this match like we did back in Round 8 but I do think we will see another Wombat victory.  Avondale to Win.      

All opinions offered in this column are the opinion of the author. They should not be considered to represent the views of the IDRU.