Armidale Blues emerged victorious from their preliminary final clash against the Barbarians to snag the final spot in next Saturday’s New England Rugby decider against Robb College.
The Blues led 15-6 at half-time and went on to clinch a 22-19 win against a much-improved Baa Baas outfit.
While it wasn’t the most complete performance by the minor premiers, co-coach Luke Stephen was pleased with the result.
“We knew the game was going to come together early, we were able to set up structures and get some points and hold off a very fast finishing side,” he said.
“We realise we still have got improvement in us but we are happy to be in the grand final and get an opportunity to play for a premiership.”
The final 20 minutes of the match saw the Baa Baas dominate possession.
“We spoke a lot about having faith in our defensive line,” Stephen said.
“We only conceded the one try but our discipline needs to be better to be successful next weekend.
“We went through patches against where we didn't have the ball but we were able to keep working, keep turning up and putting in effort defensively with a really good impact from the guys off the bench.”
Stephen praised the efforts of his quicks for putting his side on the front foot.
“It was a very strong game, particularly by our back three,” he said.
“John Roberts was outstanding once again but also Joe Halaapiapi and Sam Lomax really countered hard, really worked.
“We snuffed out a lot of really close chances through our speed and cover defence and we will need that in all certainty for next weekend.”