THERE aren’t any bigger clashes in New England outside of the finals than Parents Weekend and St Albert’s v Robb.
The college rivals will square off at Bellevue Oval today and, in something of a unique situation for this season, again next week.
“If we get on top this weekend that will help next weekend,” Albies coach Tom Newsome said.
He’s not thinking past today though, and what will be a very tough encounter, especially if their last meeting is anything to go by.
That was in the Armidale Knockout and Robb took the honours in a match that wasn’t decided until the last five minutes.
Both sides won’t be a lot different to what they were then and Robb co-coach Jim Boland is expecting the game to be similarly tight.
Boland got his first taste of the college derbies last year and likened it to the good old Moree-Narrabri clashes he was involved in back in his days with the Bulls.
As with big clashes, there are a lot of distractions, and Boland thought last season they probably got caught up in the occasion a bit.
They’ve spoken about that, and maintaining the pressure.
“Albies are such a good team that you give them a sniff they’ll blow you away in five minutes,” Boland said.
He’s confident they will be at least competitive.
Both sides are coming off wins, with Albies toppling the previously undefeated Armidale and Robb slogging it out for a win in the snow and sleet against Guyra.
It was hard on both condition and opposition fronts, and Boland said they showed a real maturity to get the win.
“We (coaches) always knew they had it. They didn’t know they had it,” he said.
It will require a similar effort today.
“We have to maintain that consistency of effort over 80 minutes,” Boland said.
One of their key focuses today will be ball retention.
“Our biggest problem has been turnovers,” he said.
“We turned over 48 against the Blues.
“We halved that against Guyra.
“We’ll have to halve it again,” Boland said.
Newsome said Robb seemed to be a much-improved side this season and is expecting them to be pretty strong in the forwards.
That’s where he sees it being decided.
“The team that gets on top in the forwards and creates the more opportunities will win,” he said.
In the knockout, he felt Robb got the better of the close contests.
“That’s the secret in tight games, winning the close contests,” he said.
He said they were an improving side and, importantly, seemed to be improving at the breakdown, which will be a crucial area today.
“We just really want to try to build on the game plan,” Newsome said.
“We’re trying not to change things too much.”
In the other game, the Blues will be also looking to rectify things when they host Barbarians.