New England Rugby Union's semi-finals begin this Saturday

PREPARE FOR BATTLE: Armidale Blues will host Robb College for the major semi-final  on Saturday before the Barbarians take on St Albert's at Alcatraz on Sunday.
PREPARE FOR BATTLE: Armidale Blues will host Robb College for the major semi-final on Saturday before the Barbarians take on St Albert's at Alcatraz on Sunday.

Five teams have been reduced to four as the New England Rugby competition prepares for a highly-anticipated finals series. 

Armidale Blues finished with the minor premiership and will meet Robb College in Saturday’s major semi-final. 

The Blues were beaten by Tamworth in the final round of the season but co-coach Luke Stephen said his team have wiped it from their minds. 

“Our focus is solely on this weekend,” he said. 

“We don't take anything in the last 15 rounds to date, it is a completely new part of the season.” 

Not much has separated the Blues and Robb this season with a draw in round one, followed by an eight-point win in favour of Armidale in round five and then a tight, 31-28 victory to the students in round nine. 

Robb will feature in every grade in the major semi-final fixtures at Moran Oval on Saturday, which they haven’t done since 2000. 

Last season saw the first grade team progress all the way to the grand final where they were beaten by St Albert’s and Robb co-coach Sam Ditchfield said, while they can build on last year’s experience, this season is a whole new ball game. 

“That experience of finals and it creates a bit of hunger to try and achieve this year what we didn't achieve last year,” he said. 

“It doesn't just happen though.

“It is a whole new comp this year and it has been a very tight comp.”

Putting together an 80 minute performance has been a thorn in the side of the students and Ditchfield said they are aiming to improve on that. 

“We have got to defend well,” he said. 

“We have been able to score enough points to win the games but equally we acknowledge that we have leaked a few too many points so we have got to make sure we defend well and back ourselves to score the points to win it.”

Sunday’s first grade minor semi-final will see the Barbarians and St Albert’s College clash for the second week in-a-row. 

Albies took the points on Saturday and Baa Baas co-coach Greg Wynn said there were aspects of their game which were disappointing and need improvement heading into the do-or-die encounter. 

“We were obviously disappointed with the result and some of the parts of the game, the way we played. But a fair bit of credit to Albies as well.

“It was a pretty important game for them and they played that way.

“In defence there was pretty good line speed and good contact but we  weren't finishing off tackles and Albies were able to get balls loose and make breaks on the back of that. 

“Defence is generally a reflection on attitude and I didn't think we had our heads in the right spot for that game so that's probably the big one for us.”