The 2014 SIRU season has been defined by a close competition with the top 6 teams having the ability to get up over their opponents on any given day and the SIRU 2014 Grand Final looks like it will be decided in the same manner. The Griffith Blacks and Albury Steamers have been building during the final stages of the season and appear to have peaked at the perfect time.
The Griffith outfit’s major strength is their star studded backline, spearheaded by Dan Rawaqa and ably supported by Marika Vunibaka. Containing Rawaqa and Vunibaka are going to be key messages for the Steamers this weekend as their ability to create space and exploit mistakes is genuinely amazing.
The Steamers would fancy their chances against the Blacks in the forwards and will be looking to Tom Boyle and Ash Lefevre to take them forward in this area. Scrums have been a strength for the boys from the border for a number of seasons now and will be a key ingredient in their game plan tomorrow.
Albury pride themselves on their set-piece, with lineout technician Tom Rowan a key contributor in this area of the game. I haven’t seen many standout lineout teams this year but this phase of the game could become very important in the Grand Final, particularly for the Steamers as their game plan revolves around structure and pressure which generally starts from the set-piece.
While the Blacks haven’t got the most technical forwards, they are big and they do like to run the ball. Leon Tiere and Siti Tora have been taking them forward in this area but the standout signing for 2014 has been Kiwi recruit Daniel Dowson. Dowson is new to the area but has had a considerable impact on the competition with his ability to get his team over the advantage line.
In the backline, Griffith have speed to burn and have finally settled on playing Dan Rawaqa at #10 which allows him to have a greater control of the game. Semisi Rogoyawa has been impressive at fullback as has Maika Ravouvou through the centres.
Richard Manion vs Dan Rawaqa will be a highlight of this match, both ex-Shute Shield players with plenty of big-game experience to draw on. Manion has been the standout #10 in the zone in recent years but will need to be at the top of his game tomorrow to get over Rawaqa.
Nathan Bright will be leading the Steamers onto the field for his third straight Grand Final, which is a solid effort in anyone’s book. A quick look over the 2012 archives reveals names such as Kora, Hogg, Rowan, Lefevre, Manion and Le Cornu in the Steamers line up; will this experience play a role this weekend?
The way I see it, the message is simple for the Steamers – contain Rawaqa and Vunibaka as much as possible, don’t kick to space, play structure and let the set-piece be a feature. The Blacks will be taking a different attitude with open running, plenty of ball for Rawaqa and Vunibaka to exploit, follow the holes around these two and try-scoring opportunities should be present. I’m not suggesting that the Blacks are a two-man band but it’s very hard to ignore the impact these two players are having on the team.
The 2014 season has been the most closely contested in recent memory and the stage is set for two teams with very different styles to show their true colours on Saturday. The weatherman says that it’s going to be sunny and dry which should set a perfect platform for some great rugby at Conolly Park.
I’ve waited 19 weeks for Grand Final day, bring it on!
#SIRU2014 Grand Final kicks off at 3:45pm at Conolly Rugby Park, Wagga Wagga
Referee: Paul Dean
Griffith Blacks: 1. Teoa Kaue, 2. Nick Gleeson, 3. Siti Tora, 4.Daniel Dowson, 5.Michael Stalley, 6. Andries De Meyer, 7. Leon Tiere, 8.Richard Latu, 9. Andy Arnold, 10.Dan Rawaqa, 11.Johnny Brown, 12. Marika Vunibaka ©, 13.Maika Ravouvou, 14.Sione Siale, 15.Semisi Rogoyawa , Coach. Seru Rogo
Albury Steamers: 1. Col Hogan, 2.Tom Boyle, 3. Arran MacDougall, 4. Dan Hogg, 5. Tom Rowan, 6. Ash Lefevre, 7. Ryan Schishka, 8. Nathan Bright ©, 9. Hugh Erwin, 10. Richard Manion, 11.Sam Allen, 12. Blake Le Cornu, 13. Liam Krautz, 14. Kell MacDougall, 15. Tom Wilmore, Coach. Mick Raynes