They’ve finished the season first and second on the table and now the Armidale Blues and Robb College will battle for outright glory when the competition comes to a head.
This Saturday marks New England Rugby Union’s grand final for the five grades in the zone. Robb will feature in all five matches and first grade co-coach Sam Ditchfield said it is a feat the club is proud of but it won’t come without its difficulties.
“It is going to be a task in all grades because as other clubs get knocked out in other grades they can drop players back that are eligible and we won't have the luxury of fresh reserves,” he said.
“In first grade we will have three fresh reserves but the other grades won't have any fresh reserves and will probably be playing teams that do have fresh reserves. But, if you are good enough, you are good enough. They are going to be very good games across the whole day, it is probably going to be tight and I am looking forward to it.”
He believes that if his team go on to win, it will down to a superb defensive effort.
“I think our defence has got to be spot on. It was our defence that beat them over in the major semi-final,” he said.
“Defence is about having confidence in the player next to you as much as having confidence in yourself and knowing who is doing what in defence – whether it is man on or drift or just what defence we are playing on what part of the paddock.
“If you are not communicating well, you are not going to defend well.”
The Blues had a tougher run into the big dance.
After finishing as minor premiers, they missed out on a major semi-final win.
They went on to play the Barbarians in last Saturday’s preliminary final and scraped into the grand final with a gritty 22-19 win.
Blues co-coach Luke Stephen said the lessons his team have learned from their two semi-final encounters and are steeled and ready for the decider.
“The key for the big games is balancing excitement with composure and we probably didn't handle that very well in the major semi so we are keeping a very controlled composure going into the game,” he said.
“It is nice to have questions asked and to be able to withstand but we know that Robb will ask a lot more questions in this game with everything on the line.”
Downpours are expected for the weekend but Stephen insists it doesn’t change the side’s mindset heading into the clash.
“We realise that no matter the conditions the ability to stay composed and execute for 80 minutes will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the game,” he said.
“It is all about building pressure through possession and turning pressure into points which is the same game plan that both clubs have employed all year.”
“Robb have been a very good football club and we know that we will have to play at our best if we are to topple them.”
The day will begin at 10am with fourth grade.
Fourth grade: Armidale Blues versus Robb College
Third grade: Armidale Blues versus Robb College
Second grade: Robb College versus Barbarians
Women’s: Robb College versus Barbets
Of the women’s fixture, Ditchfield said they have been a huge part of their club all year and had nothing but praise for the squad.
They have trained so hard, the girls come to training with us and work exceptionally hard and I am just really pleased for them to have got the result from the bloody hard work they have put in,” he said.
“Not always does it get enough recognition because those girls are training equally as hard has everyone else and I think they deserve to be acknowledged for that.
“There has been times through the year where we have finished training and our girls are still training and they have been doing the extra trainings themselves. At our club the girls are as important as any of the boys teams.”