New Zealand Domestic Rugby builds toward major Semifinals

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New Zealand Domestic Rugby builds toward major Semifinals
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 14: Dalton Papali'i of Auckland makes a break during the round nine Mitre 10 Cup match between Auckland and North Harbour at Eden Park on October 14, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

After the final regulation season game was concluded on Sunday, New Zealand Domestic Rugby is building toward the major Semifinals for all men’s and women’s rugby competition.

That is for the Mitre 10 Cup; both the Premiership and the Championship. The Heartland Championship; both for the Meads Cup and the Lochore Cup. Each of those competitions will hold major semifinals next weekend, with the Grand Final played on the Saturday and Sunday, October 20-21.

As well, the Farah Palmer Cup held their own semifinals for the Premiership and Championship divisions this weekend. With a reduced format, the timing suits the scheduling of the Black Ferns tour of Northern America and France during November.

New Zealand Domestic Rugby builds toward Semifinals

With the last matches played on Sunday for the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership, the final placings were decided in the Premiership. The top four teams were known after Wellington continued their fast ascension from ‘new addition to the group’ to being, a real contender.

They defeated Taranaki on Friday 10-34, and with the points difference, so North Harbour could not overcome that detail – even if they did manage a win over Auckland. In the end, the revitalized Auckland union showed that the newly installed belief from head coach Alama Iremia, will allow them to potentially host the grand final (as top finishing team).

So the 2018 semifinal places in the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership would be:

Auckland v Wellington – Saturday October 20. Eden Park, AKL

Tasman v Canterbury – Saturday Oct 20. Trafalgar Park, Nelson

Meanwhile, down in the Championship [division two] Otago would look to cap off the season, with a challenge for the Ranfurly Shield that would also include hopes of a home semifinal. After 80 minutes of tough, New Zealand domestic rugby, the men from the deep south would both; secure a home semi and, more importantly to fans, they left with the prize!

Now a major semifinal will be hosted in Dunedin, as their beaten opponents on Saturday Waikato, had already secured their own semifinal. But former Pro12 coach Jonno Gibbs will be upset in relinquishing the Ranfurly Shield. His men had put on good performances, so will need to show that spirit again next weekend, as knockout rugby gives no second chances.

2018 semifinal places for the Mitre 10 Cup Championship are:

Waikato v Northland – Saturday Oct 20. FMG Stadium, Hamilton

Otago v Hawke’s Bay – Friday Oct 19. Forsyth-Barr Stadium, Dunedin

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In the Heartland Championship, the quality is ever improving. Now not as distant to the first and second divisions, quality performances by the majority of teams meant that the final round would also only just confirm the finishing places.

The Meads Cup is played for, by the leading four teams. Then the following sides [5th-8th] contest the Lochore Cup. Each division as prestigious as the players whom they are named after and, each as closely fought for.

Results would go the way of many teams, although Thames Valley could have secured their first ever home Meads Cup semifinal but for a loss to South Canterbury. That would leave them facing the toughest prospect in the third division of New Zealand domestic rugby …. Wanganui at home.

The other side to benefit was King Country. They beat Mid Canterbury and it would allow them to jump up into third place. So unlike the Swampfoxes, the Rams would sidestep the massive challenge of Wanganui.

That would finalize semifinal places for the Heartland Championship Meads Cup:

Wanganui v Thames Valley – Sat Oct 20, 2:30pm. Cooks Gardens

South Canterbury v King Country – Oct 20. Alpine Energy Stadium

In another change to the standings that would impact the placings, North Otago hit Wairarapa Bush with everything they had. Winning 0-24 away from home was a challenge they accepted, even if the lack of a bonus point meant the difference between second and third [where they finished].

The fourth division was close, with only five points separating the sides who qualify for the Lochore Cup. And that is good for the game. Better than it is close, rather than any huge disparity between those teams.

Note: West Coast Rugby were handed disciplinary action for fielding an ineligible player, and lost six competition points, through a New Zealand domestic rugby tribunal ruling.
And the outcome was, the Lochore Cup semifinalists are:

Horowhenua-Kapiti v Mid Canterbury – Oct 20. Levin Domain

Wairarapa Bush v North Otago – Oct 20. Trusthouse Memorial Park

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For the women’s game, they had a shorter regulation season. Over seven weeks, the teams each fought hard to satisfy both their objectives, and the hopes of their fanbase. After the huge growth phase in the women’s game, quality rugby would the best result – and all of the Farah Palmer Cup semifinals proved to be first-class.

Wellington 33 North Harbour 7 | Otago 34 Hawke’s Bay 10 | Waikato 14 Counties-Manukau 24 | Canterbury 31 Manawatu 12

Premiership relegation match – Bay of Plenty 25 Auckland 22

A notable result was that Auckland; the one-time most dominant team in all of New Zealand domestic rugby [who recorded eight consecutive NPC championships] has been relegated to the second division next year. Oh how times have changed, and that is representative of the 2018 Farah Palmer Cup competitiveness.

In the Premiership, the Canterbury team have secured another home final. Led brilliantly by Kendra Cocksedge, they will invite the Counties Power Heat side down to AMI Stadium, in a battle of the heavyweights.

And in the Championship division, the Otago Spirit will visit the Wellington Pride, at Jerry Collins Stadium. This singular game holds so much more than just the honour of winning. Promotion to the Premiership is the reward, so both sides know it is more than just a knockout game.

But what is true for the upcoming New Zealand domestic rugby finals, is that the women are no longer segregated to the sidelines. next weekend, they will stand proud in the spotlight .

Which is where they truly deserve to be.

2018 Farah Palmer Cup finals – Premiership:

Canterbury v Counties-Manukau – Sat Oct 20. Christchurch Stadium

2018 Farah Palmer Cup finals – Championship:

Wellington v Otago – Sat Oct 20. Porirua Stadium

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Every one of the above matches had meaning. In all New Zealand domestic rugby fixtures, both players and fans show their true colours, their respect for the past, and built towards the future. And that future is looking strong indeed.

While social media and TV coverage might remove some of the numbers once in attendance, those watching first-hand or viewing live coverage on Pay TV all know the truth. That the game is still just as riveting, as it has been for the last 125 years.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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