Westport and White Star to meet in final
Buller Rugby will have new club champions by Saturday afternoon as old foes Westport and White Star do battle at Victoria Square from 2-30pm. Both teams have been the form sides of the competition and thoroughly deserve their chance in the big dance.
White Star last won the Shield in 2014 whilst Westport, the unions most successful club with regards championships won, haven’t had their hands on the shield since 2003. The teams enter Saturday’s clash neck and neck. They have played each other four times this season with the honours shared two apiece.
Sting in their tail
Westport will be desperate to claim back the shield after such a long stint without it. They have form on their side after winning their last four matches including a 24-16 win on Victoria Square last time these two teams met two weeks ago. That fixture was Westport’s last game as they gained automatic entry to the final courtesy of finishing as top qualifiers. They should be fresh to go with any niggly injuries getting time to heal.
White Star trio Anthony Tailua, Iliesa Ravudra and Josh Tuidriva had a field day last weekend in their semi-final victory over defending champions Ngakawau/Karamea. They combined to score all of White Stars 57 points scoring nine tries between them. With fine weather and a dry track, they will again be a handful to contain.
Both clubs have plenty of experience in their packs. None more so than White Star who have Buller legends Luke Brownlee, Phil Beveridge and Logan Mundy in their pack. No doubt they will be reminding their counterparts of the amount of roast dinners they have eaten since Westport last won the shield. For Westport, front rowers Glen Duncan and Stephen Crackett have plenty of experience and they will be integral to keeping their forward pack in the right mindset for the full 80 minutes.
The flashy boys out in the backs will be hoping for the dry weather as forecast. Both teams have plenty of excitement in their backlines. As mentioned the White Star trio or Ravudra, Tuidriva and Tailua, if all available, will be hard to contain however Westport will have plenty of attack to throw back in the form of players such as Andrew Norton-Taylor, Scott Neighbours and Pat Saukuru. Mitieli Kaloudigibeci has been Westport’s top try scorer with 8 this year and will be eager to get his hands on the ball.
Mouth-watering match ups
Both front rows have class written all over them. Crackett, Duncan and Jareth Mackay will be solid for Westport whilst Mundy, Callum Lennon and Hemi Manawatu are near impossible to break. Young number 8’s Zack Walsh and Luke Watson have been impressive all season with the latter have a barn-storming game last weekend. The midfield combinations are the ones to look for. For Westport, Tokahau Samuels and Pat Saukuru will have their hands full trying to contain club leading try scorer Tuidriva. His powerful bursts at pace are damaging and provided his discipline stays with him can be a match-winner. He has an able ally in the form of Isaac Hogarth who showed last weekend he has an attacking game to go with his already flawless defence.
Too close to call
This game should be a cracker. Both teams have the ability to score from anywhere on the park. Westport should gain an edge with their numbers and having largely a team that is able to train every week. White Star have a very strong starting 15 and there is no denying the quality that they will have when they take the field. Both clubs are extremely well coached with White Star under the guidance of Buller Heartland co-coach Craig Neill whilst Westport being under the control of Hugh McMillan and Thomas Stuart. Discipline could well be a major factor on Saturday and this match will be officiated by Andrew Duncan.
Cold hard stats
- Westport have looked a level above when Tim Manawatu has been on the field.
- When Josh Tuidriva scores two or more tries and spends all 80 minutes on the field, White Star have not lost.
- Westport lock Josh Hedley has created lineout chaos for teams throwing against him.
- White Star have appeared in the last 4 grand finals, Westport have not appeared since 2012.