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The final 80 minutes a hard slog for Hardham

Aug 13th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News, Sport

UPDATE: Wainuiomata scored a 31-10 victory over Avalon in the final at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.

Two Valley sides are chasing the Hardham Cup. Avalon got there by pulling up their socks, Wainui by channelling the disappointment of missing the Jubilee Cup round. JOSH SNEE previews Sunday’s big showdown for the runner’s-up trophy in the major Wellington rugby competition.

The Favourites:

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GIMME SHELTER: Wainuiomata teammates chill out after a run. From left: Michael Williams, Attila Va'a, Dan Olive, Genesis Mamea, Raakai Maxwell, Wayne Aiomata and Greg Lealofi.

HAVING missed making the Jubilee Cup round by a single point, Wainuiomata Rugby Club set their sights on the Hardham Cup Final back in the middle of June.

After defeating Tawa 35-29, they find themselves favourites for the final and the focus this week has been on facing up to having 80 minutes of rugby still to play.

“Avalon has done their homework over the last few weeks and have got nothing to lose,” says Wainui coach Frae Wilson.

Wilson has called on Darren Larsen, Wellington under-20s coach, and introduced some fresh drills to keep the players on their toes.

Wainui have also welcomed back prop Justin Va’a from the northern hemisphere’s Heineken Cup, and has newcomers including under-20 lock Shahn Eru.

Captain James Saolele says he’s looking forward to stepping out onto Westpac Stadium as the ground will suit an open, high-tempo game.

They aim to play smart rugby and use the width as Avalon has a big pack and superior fitness could be telling in the latter part of the game, says Saolele. He adds his midfield could be the difference.

Many of his players will also be supporting fellow Wainui-ites fronting up in league’s Wellington Grand Final tomorrow.

The underdogs:

AVALON’s Premier side had a horror start to the second round, losing their first four games and being written off by many.

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COLD COMFORT: Avalon turn out for training on a cool evening this week.

Now coach John Andrews, in his second season with the club, has instilled the discipline and belief  that produced four end-of-season wins on the trot from his players and earned them a place in the final of the Hardham Cup.

The fourth win was the semi-final when they travelled to Karori and pushed a previously undefeated Western Suburbs to a 12-11 win in the last play of the game.

Andrews says “defence and an understanding of what we have to do when we don’t have the ball” allowed Avalon to stop a Wests team who had put four tries on most other teams.

Not only have Avalon had a change of coach but they have brought in a new committee and greater sponsorship, which has helped retain a lot of senior players.

“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes and getting new jerseys was part of the master plan in maintaining the players we have,” says Andrews.

Taking the reins about 18 months ago, Andrews was able to structure a conditioning program during the off season that has seen his players stay injury-free.

Senior players such as Damian Collins and Stephen and Cameron Cross have led the team, while Andrews says players like Finua Hopoi and Errol Weston have understood their value on the bench and brought a calming influence when called on as the games heat up.

Avalon are taking the approach that this is just another game and are not getting too amped up about it, with the winner being the team that make fewer errors, says Andrews.

This sentiment is shared by club captain Gary Gosper, who says it would be foolish to change the preparation just for the final.

“The guys have their own way of doing things and we don’t want to mess with that.”

The Hardham Cup Final, Westpac Stadium, Sunday, August 15 at 12.30pm.

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