THE FIRST New England Rugby Union semi-final is set to come down to the wire with minor premiers St Albert’s taking on an in-form Armidale Blues outfit at Bellevue oval.
The last time the two sides clashed in round 13, Albies escaped with a one point victory over the reigning premiers.
Albies have been the front-runners in the competition all season but the Blues are aiming to secure the first place in the grand final on August 13.
““It has been a couple of years since that we have gone in with an underdog tag but it is something we are happy to embrace,” Blues coach Luke Stephen said.
“The players know that when we do perform to our ability we can beat any side in the competition.
“Albies are a quality football side and we know the last time we played them we had our chances.
“The main thing we have to do differently this time is control the breakdown and with that will mean that we will be able to maintain more possession and with the skill of our outside players, will translate to more points.
“It is about which forward pack is able to give their team the opportunity knowing full well if the team doesn’t have the ball, it is pretty hard to score points.” Albies head into the match as favourites but know the Blues are finals football specialists.
Coach Tom Newsome said his side are looking forward to the match up and will not be overwhelmed with the favourites tag.
“The Blues are masters at manipulating finals games and winning silverware,” he said.
“They have won the last three so they have got the runs on the board.
“We are just going to try and play our game and execute the way we play the game as well as we can.
We are just going to try and play our game and execute the way we play the game as well as we can.- Tom Newsome
“If we can do that we will hopefully be successful.”
Both coaches know that if they walk away with a loss in this weekend’s game, they face an uphill battle to make the grand final.
The unsuccessful side will face the winner of Sunday’s minor semi-final between Barbarians and Robb College next weekend.
Barbarians were narrowly defeated by Albies last weekend and the Blues accounted for Robb College.
Newsome said it would be hard to split the sides when they take to the field on Sunday.
“It really depends who controls the game because Baa Baas nearly beat us last weekend and we play a similar style to Robb so Robb will have to be on their game to beat them,” he said.
“Baa Baas are in good form so I am not too sure who is going to win it but it will be the team who plays the best footy on the day.”
The major semi-final day begins with a fourth grade exhibition match at 10.10am.
Three women’s matches will be played between the men’s grades.
The second grade final will be between Guyra and Albies at 1.15pm.
The first grade semi-final commences at 3.05pm.
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