Friday, 10 October 2014
ITM Cup Championship Race
Three teams have bragging rights to promotion and the results this week in the final round robins throws up some interesting permutations. Currently Manawatu lead the comp by 4 points with both Hawkes Bay second on 26 (and a 40+ differential) and Northland on 26 (plus 20+ differential) with Southland and North harbour vying for the 4th spot. So how does this play out for home semis?
The final round sees the leaders Manawatu away to Otago. Never an easy game in Dunners but the form Manawatu have been displaying of late is inspiring and I'm picking the Turbos to win a tight one. So what of their table permutations? A 5 point win would see them safely at home in the semis, as will a 4 point win. However if they lose and get 1 point they will have to sweat out the other two team's match results.
Hawkes Bay have a home match (Ranfurly Shield) versus Southland. This will be one very interesting match as Hawkes Bay have been playing good rugby too, and Southland have this knack of knocking over the holders and stealing the Log of Wood for their own mantelpiece. If the Magpies win with 5 points they can overtake Manawatu if Manawatu fail to get a point in Dunedin. And with only one differential point between them currently an interesting finals series in the offing.
However the Dark Horse is The Taniwha, Ngapuhi Northland. They have an away match at Auckland this weekend and same as Hawkes Bay, a 5 point win will seem them move to the top if Manawatu and Hawkes Bay fail to secure a point. If they tie with Hawkes Bay on points ahead of Manawatu, Hawkes Bay will lead the comp on differential, Unless the Taniwha get a 21+ point advantage over Auckland (which seems not insurmountable).
Of course there are four teams in the finals in both comps, but I'm concentrating on the top four finishing positions. In the mix for fourth place are Southland and North Harbour. As stated The Stags have a very tough match for the Log at Napier, but if they knock over Magpies (the points differential will be small) they have a shot at top four, unless North Harbour beat Wellington with a 5 point bonus point win and move ahead of the Stags. Tough comp eh!! And who would have thought Harbour would have been in the mix early on in the season?
So folks, starting tonight, forget the Premiership, put your feet up for the weekend and watch the Championship teams fight it out for bragging rights and in the process enjoy some top footy.