The Darwin Club Rugby season enters its business end tonight with both Semi Finals set for decision at Rugby Park from 5.15pm and 7.00pm.
The 38th annual Semi Final series will see University enter an Elimination match against Palmerston as raging hot favourites to progress to next week’s Preliminary Final against the loser of the Major Semi between Casuarina and South Darwin.
In the three encounters between them this year the Pirates have racked up 115 points while the Crocs have managed to score just four tries.
Palmerston lost the last three matches of the regular season and it would seem an unsurmountable task to expect them to reverse an average score of 38-7 against University and stay alive for at least another week.
However Palmerston is unfazed by the challenge ahead of them with Captain Antony Smith upbeat about his side’s chances.
He said ‘if we play nice disciplined Rugby we can beat them”.
The Crocs are at full strength for the first time in several weeks, with Smith adding that his team “will play simple old school Rugby, ball in hand”.
Despite the statistics weighing heavily in their favour it would be foolhardy for the Pirates to enter the match with any degree of complacency.
Palmerston’s Round 13 match against South Darwin was an indication of how the Crocs can match it with the Competition’s big guns.
Only a late penalty goal secured a 24-21 victory for the Rabbitohs.
University’s forward pack spearheaded by skipper Frank Jennings will be the key to setting up the platform to maximise the offensive prowess of Shaun Wauchope.
The Major Semi Final between Casuarina and South Darwin should be a torrid encounter as both teams seek direct passage into the Grand Final in a fortnight.
The Cougars are undefeated this year and their last match against the Rabbitohs on June 21 was played at a frenetic pace and arguably the best of the 45 First Grade games played this season.
Casuarina won that game 28-10 however a late try that night exaggerated the difference between the two sides.
With the forward packs evenly matched, fly half Keegan Neal holds the key to South’s success as he tries to create opportunities for centres Henry Berns and Whittmer Tuputala to get through the almost unbreakable Cougar defence.
Neal’s opposite number at Casuarina is the talented New Zealander Nate Lamb, a first year player at the Cougars who has played an instrumental role in Casuarina’s run of 15 matches without loss this season
If their round 12 encounter is indicative of the intensity in which the match will be played it will become a battle of attrition and the superior fitness of Casuarina could be a telling factor.
Loose forward Christopher”Bobby” Nurse is the best in the competition while last year’s Willie Ellsion Medallist Joe Albert revels in fiercely contested forward battles whilst mobile front rower Eric Ericson is one of the first players to every breakdown.
Casuarina’s last loss in a Premiership match was in Round 15 last year when they were trounced 41-17 by the Rabbitohs.
The Cougars went on to defeat University in both the Major Semi Final and Grand Final to secure the Clubs tenth Premiership.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of NT Rugby.