THE race for New England Rugby’s minor premiership has become all but a two-horse race with a clear favourite.
Armidale Blues took double points against second-placed Robb College last week to shoot eight points clear at the top.
The students could still mount an end-of-season raid for the honours, although with Albies in third place on just 17 points, only a miracle will stop them both getting home semis.
The Blues will be looking to further consolidate their lead tomorrow when they play a lean Albies side stinging from a second loss to last placed Barbarians last weekend and also suffering from a player shortage because of the uni holidays.
The Blues also have a few out with holidays and will miss Alex Smith at the back of the scrum, who is away on a TAS rugby tour.
Coach Alan Jones is confident the Blues can get the points and pull further away from the pack on the table.
“Albies still have plenty of depth and always seem to lift for us,” Jones said.
“They chance their arm and run out of their try line and things like that so we do have to be careful.”
Rather than try to contain that expansive rugby, Jones has chosen to match it in the true spirit of running rugby.
New England centre Dan Ah See will move to fullback, with usual custodian John Roberts going to outside centre.
“We will look to drift out pretty hard and attack that way,” Jones said,
“It will also shore up our set piece defence.”
The Blues forwards should be dominant at the breakdowns and set good platforms for the re-jigged backline, although the set piece could be a challenge.
“They have a good attacking line-out with two U20 representative second-rowers,” Jones said.
“That will be a challenge for us but I would like to think our forwards can hold their own.”
The coach is already looking ahead to the finals and knows what points this weekend could mean for the club.
“A win this Saturday should put us right out in front and looking at the minor premiership.
“You need to finish in the top two to get a home semi and a second chance if you want to win the comp.”
Robb will be trying its best not to let the Blues get too far in front as it travels to Guyra tomorrow for the other match.
Guyra had last week off after being beaten by last-placed Barbarians the week before and will be desperate for a win.