A fortnight tomorrow the New Zealand Barbarians National 1st XV Championships (Top 4) will get underway in Palmerston North, and this weekend shapes as a pivotal one in the chase for those places where the contenders will look to separate themselves from the pretenders. We’ll take a look at all three competitions, region by region.
Of the four, the Blues region is the most well-advanced. The biggest game in town is the Auckland 1A final at Eden Park where St Kentigern’s and Sacred Heart battle it out not just for the local title, but to stay alive and advance to next weekend’s Boys regional final. Both sides had to work hard in their semi-finals, with the scorelines - St Kents 17-13 over Auckland Grammar and Sacred Heart 21-0 over St Peters – indicative of that. The winner of that clash will take on Rosmini College, who were upset 18-12 winners over Westlake Boys at North Harbour Stadium last Thursday night, in the final next Saturday.
In the Coed Boys, North Harbour’s Rangitoto College beat Northland’s Kerikeri High School 39-12 today to book their place in the Blues final against last year's beaten Top 4 finalists Aorere College from Auckland
The Girls final has already been set. Southern Cross beat Onehunga HS on Monday in the Auckland final, and they’ll now visit last year’s Blues winners Kaipara College in the regional final, being played on Monday.
By contrast there are two full sets of semi-finals to be played in the Chiefs region. In the Boys two recently crowned winners of their respective competitions – CNI champions Wesley College and joint-Super 8 winners Hamilton Boys - will meet in Waiuku in one match, while at the other end of the franchise region Super 8 rivals New Plymouth Boys and 2015 National Champions Rotorua Boys lock horns once again at the fabled Gully ground. The winners of these two will face off next weekend.
In the Coed Boys St Peters, Cambridge makes the haul south to face the real minnows of any competition left standing in Opunake High School. The coastal Taranaki school musters barely 300 students and would be absolute outsiders against the well-performed CNI competition side (and a school of over 1000), who accounted for Te Awamutu College 64-6 last Saturday. The other match has Rotorua school Western Heights – who beat Tauranga school Te Wharekura o Mauao 24-14 – taking on Counties-Manukau’s Manurewa High.
In the Girls Tauranga Girls saw off Bay of Plenty rivals Rotorua and will now take on Waikato winners Hamilton Girls in the final.
The lower end of the North Island is at a similar stage to the Chiefs. The venues for this weekend’s Boys semi-finals were only determined on Sunday afternoon when St Pats Silverstream defeated Wellington College 17-11 in the local final. That means that Silverstream will face Palmerston North Boys, who won the qualifier rematch against Napier Boys, in one game – that match to be played at the Hutt Rec rather than at Silverstream itself, while Wellington face the daunting prospect of a trip up State Highway 2 to face the Hastings Boys juggernaut. Given that both away sides have already lost handily to their opponents this year a reversal would be a major upset.
The Coed Boys sees CNI runners-up Feilding High head to Masterton to take on Wellington Premiership side Wairarapa College after winning their areas over Wanganui Collegiate and Kapiti College respectively. The other match was to have Wellington’s Porirua College taking on wider east coast winner Wairoa College, but the northern Hawke’s Bay school are unable to travel and have defaulted.
The Girls has also unfortunately seen a default with Feilding defaulting to last year’s runners-up and Condor Sevens winners St Mary’s. That leaves just one game with Manawatu champions Manukura hosting Wellington runners-up Aotea, with the winner facing St Mary’s in the regional final next week.
The places in next weekend’s Boys final will be determined this weekend. In Crusaders country that will be the winner of the UC Championship between perennial contenders Christchurch Boys – who had to come from behind to beat Nelson College 40-34 – and first-time finalists Timaru Boys who saw off Christ’s 24-10 in the other semi. Down south in Highlanders territory old foes Otago Boys and Southland Boys will meet once again and as with their Traditional it’s the Dunedin school that will travel. Next week’s final will be hosted by the Highlanders winner.
In the Coed Boys Christchurch’s St Andrews College are already through to the final. They’ll host the winners of Saturday’s clash between St Peters College, Gore, and Dunstan HS, with the latter getting a second-chance after South Otago HS were forced to withdraw due to injuries.
And finally the first team to book their place in Palmerston North will be known after the only regional final being played on Saturday, when Christchurch Girls met defending National Champions Southland Girls on neutral turf in Temuka.
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