League: Rotorua teams primed for playoffs

By Ben Guild

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Pikiao's Scott Hamilton carrying the ball strongly at Puketawhero Park against Ngongotaha during the regular season. Photo / Stephen Parker
Pikiao's Scott Hamilton carrying the ball strongly at Puketawhero Park against Ngongotaha during the regular season. Photo / Stephen Parker

Rotorua's two Bay of Plenty District Rugby League premier competition hopefuls find themselves in contrasting situations heading into the opening weekend of the playoffs.

Second-placed finishers Pikiao can book their spot directly in a home final with a win on the road against top qualifiers Pacific of Tokoroa in the major semifinal, while Ngongotaha need to win a sudden death minor semifinal showdown with Taupo to keep their hopes alive.

The loser of the major semifinal will play the winner of the minor semifinal next weekend to determine which team advances to the final.

Pacific enjoyed the bye in the final round so will be refreshed and lying in wait for a Pikiao side that eased to a comfortable 70-14 win over Central on Saturday.

Ngongotaha come into finals footy on the back of a 40-20 result against Mangakino.

Pikiao coach Doug Unuwai said his side, which split the two regular season games against Pacific, had prepared well and now possessed a forward pack to trouble the top qualifiers.

"I think we can match them up front whereas last year we weren't that strong in the forwards," he said.

"That's improved this season and it's been something we've been building towards all year.

The squad is largely injury free.

Ngongotaha coach Dominic James said his team would be well prepared after getting some troops back from injury in recent weeks.

Both matches this season between the two sides had been won narrowly by the home team, and James is expecting another tight tussle from 2.45pm at Puketawhero Park on Saturday.

"We've had some tough games against Taupo so it's not going to be an easy game," he said.

"I think we have the capability if we play to our potential. It's a big game with home advantage and we have been working hard at training on our defence because that's what lets us down.

"This is what we play for at the end of the day - finals football. We were in the same situation last year and just hoping we can turn things around and go the next step." Pikiao's two sides will slug it out in the minor semifinal in the reserve grade competition as Reporoa host Pacific in the major semifinal.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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