Stakes high for arch-rivals in Armidale

IT’S the biggest rivalry in the New England competition and tomorrow it will determine college rivals Robb and St Albert’s premiership fates.

Robb prop Will Chaffey braces for the tackles of Albies players Nick Smith (left) and Joe Masters, as opposing props Charlie French (far left) and James Cleaver look on when they last met. They’ll clash for a grand final berth tomorrow. Photo: www.pixonline.com.au

Robb prop Will Chaffey braces for the tackles of Albies players Nick Smith (left) and Joe Masters, as opposing props Charlie French (far left) and James Cleaver look on when they last met. They’ll clash for a grand final berth tomorrow. Photo: www.pixonline.com.au

The two will match up in the first of the two first grade knockout semi-finals.

Armidale and Barbarians will match up in the other, with the two winners moving through to the grand final.

In both cases, it will be   a repeat of last year’s finals match-ups.

Albies prevailed in the student derby, making it a clean sweep against Robb.

The tide has turned this year, with Robb the dominant force.

But that will count for little if they don’t get the result tomorrow.

“They want this badly,” Robb co-coach Jim Boland said.

“They’ve gone without for a long time.”

He said what’s happened in the last five encounters means absolutely nothing. It might give them a slight edge, but that’s been dulled somewhat by Albies’ performance against Armidale last week.

Boland was impressed by what he saw.

They played an up-tempo game and really harassed the Blues into errors, and were superb in defence.

“Their defence was outstanding on the line in the first 15 minutes,” he said.

They held the Blues out and then went up the other end and scored.

“If we stick to what we’re successful at, we’re a good chance,” Boland said.

He noted in their games against Albies their scrum has been outstanding.

Their direct running and decision-making has also been good, and key factors in them getting the results.

Boland has been involved in plenty of finals as a player and a coach, and highlighted decision making as a critical – if not the critical – area.

“There’s a lot more pressure now,” he said. “You’ve got to make decisions under fatigue and with less time.”

That works the other way as well.

“We’ve got to put pressure on them in defence,” Boland said.

“We’ve got to take away their decision-making time.”

He’ll be looking to his side to really make their presence felt in defence.

“I know if my fellas are on, they’ll make metres in defence.”

The zone has announced the first of its perpetual trophy winners, with Guyra’s Greg Hill (seniors) and St Albert’s Ollie Bartlett (Colts) taking out the inaugural John Hipwell Trophy for the Representative Player of the Year.

The story Stakes high for arch-rivals in Armidale first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.

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