One of the biggest sporting rivalries in the New England will come to a head this Saturday when university foes collide in a grand final encounter.
The stage is set for the top two teams in the New England Rugby Union, St Albert’s College and Robb College, to meet in the first grade decider.
Albies have held the edge over their nemesis side throughout the season but Robb coach Sam Ditchfield said his team have the ability to get the breakthrough in the biggest game of the year.
“Though we haven’t beaten them this year, we have had close games and at times certainly more than held our own against them,” he said.
“If we can minimise our mistakes and be exact in our execution we give ourselves a very good opportunity to cause an upset. At the end of the day funny things happen in finals footy. You have to be there to win it, and if you are there you have a chance.”
Ditchfield said their preparation in the lead up to Saturday’s encounter has been smooth.
“They were a bit sore earlier in the week from a couple of weeks of pretty physical football,” he said. “That just helps harden them going into the final. We have worked on areas of the game we feel we have needed to work on.”
Albies earned the spot in the decider after beating Robb in the first semi-final two weeks ago. Their success earned the side a week off and co-coach Chris Kelly said they have used the extra time between games to fine tune their fitness and game plan.
“It is a grand final and has its own pressures but we have trained well,” he said. “We had a very, very solid hit out on Saturday morning in terms of fitness. It was very demanding and the boys finished it, had a good day and really signed on to doing everything to 100 per cent of their abilities. There is a good feeling in the camp.”
Kelly said his side have been chomping at the bit to run out on to the field.
“We are ready. The boys are keen,” he said. “Hopefully we put on a good show. We are not treating the opposition with any level of arrogance by any stretch. They are very worthy competition and we are going to do our best to close them out. Both sides won’t leave anything out there. It will be a good game.”
In what has been a dominant year for the club, Albies will also field sides in the third grade grand final commencing at 11.15am and the second grade decider at 1.05pm, with both games against Armidale Blues. The women’s sevens title will be contested by Barbets and Robb at 12.45pm and 2.50pm. The first grade game is at 3.05pm.
Albies: Will Turner, Sam Caster, Keagan Size, Angus Smith, Tom McDonnell, Ben Carmicheal, Jack Lane, Sam Knight, Alex Webster, James Reynolds, Brandon Power, Alex Pay ©, Tom Condon, Jock Pattinson, Will Archer. Reserves: Pete Brooker, Jono Green. Coaches: Chris Kelly, Ed Hiscock.
Robb: Roley Stinson, Andy Leathem, Nick Sorenson, Max Cowley, Will Marshall, George Woods, James Gavin, Clarry Pratten, Harry Morrow, Hamish Dickson, Barney Swan, Tom Bucknell, Nic Schnitzler ©, Darcy Larrit, Marshall Arnold. Reserves [from]: Michael Ogilvie, Angus Marshall, George Woods, Angus Macintosh, Ryan Browning, Liam Salmon, Luke Platts, Will Gardener, Charlie McAlpine, Marty Conroy. Coach: Sam Ditchfield.