Will It Be Two In A Row?
It’s the 2001 premiers versus the 2002 minor premiers to see who will take out the grand final of the Bartercard Cup, on Saturday afternoon at Carlaw Park, for the 2002 season.
10 September 2002 - article from www.rugbyleague.co.nz
The reigning premiers, Hibiscus Coast Raiders had already qualified for the final following their defeat of Mt Albert Lions, the 2002 minor premiers, two weeks ago with the Lions joining them following their victory over Otahuhu on Friday night at Ericsson Stadium.
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It was another exciting game of Rugby League between these two sides with Mt Albert breaking clear towards the end of the match to run out winners by 36 – 20.
The Lions had the better of the match in the opening quarter and were the first to score but Otahuhu were hanging in well and the only two times that they got close to their opponents line they were able to score.
It was four tries to two in the first half and at the break the Lions were ahead by 24 – 12 thanks to a try right on the bell to winger Scott Dewhurst who showed real speed in dashing 50 metres for his try.
The Otahuhu forwards toiled away all game and were a handful for the Mt Albert defence. However they didn’t crack and were able to secure victory late in the game when Ben Lythe put second rower Keneti Asiata through a small gap to race over for a six pointer. From the re-start, Lions fullback Lee Finnerty, the competition’s top try scorer, raced away for a magnificent try, his third for the night, securing the final berth in the Bartercard Cup Grand Final.
On Saturday the best two sides square off to see who will take out the trophy. It promises to be a great match and all supporters of the game are encouraged to go along for what will be the last Grand Final to be played at Carlaw Park.
The Raiders are stacked with rising young stars of the game. Two of those, Iafeta Paleaáesina and Karl Temata turned out for the Warriors last Friday night against West Tigers.
Captain Anthony Seu Seu, younger brother of Jerry, debuted against the Brisbane Bronco’s in 2001.
Mt Albert has tough second rower Peter Lewis, who played for the Warriors in 1999. David Myles is a possibility should he not make eighteen man squad for the Warriors Semi-Final against Canberra on Sunday.
In the last game between these two sides the Raiders got off to a great start to put sixteen points on the board before the Lions woke up and started to play footie. I doubt that they’ll enjoy such a luxury this time around as I’m sure that Lions coach John Ackland will have his side fizzing from the kick-off.
In that game the Raiders finally ran out winners by 26 –24. This time they’ll be without centre Steve Matthews who’s under suspension and will likely move Chris Shears into his place and restore Shaun Ata to the starting thirteen. They won’t lose anything from that enforced change.
The key to their game will be their strength up the middle with halves, Jeremy Smith and Aaron Aspin, direct play and creating opportunities for dashing fullback Daniel Floyd.
Floyd, on his day, can rip open any defence with his pace and elusive running. He could test the Mt Albert line come Saturday.
Mt Albert will be relying on forwards Hutch Maiava and Paea Kailea to set them a sound platform and for second rower Asiata to break open the defence out wide. They too will set much of their game around halves Lythe and Steve Buckingham. Buckingham has been out for some time with a knee injury that has troubled him for some years but he will be back for what could be his last game and will be doing everything he can to make it a championship winning one.
Fullback Finnerty will pop up somewhere and the match-up between him and Floyd will be one of the games highlights.
It’s guaranteed that the Raiders will bring along plenty of their supporters to back them. And they are sure to provide plenty of noise in doing so. The Lions will want to see as many of their supporters turn up as well, decked out in their blue and gold.
And the winner? The Raiders have had the experience of playing in, and winning, a Bartercard Cup Grand Final. The Lions have been the most consistent team all year. The Raiders won the last match between the two sides. They also had last week off. Both sides are well coached.
Mt Albert took out the Fox Memorial Trophy in 1982 and 1992. Can they take out the Bartercard Cup in 2002? I think they can.
It’s my prediction that we’ll see a great game of football between two very good sides with the Lions running out winners by 34 –26.
By Andy Deerness (Proudly sponsored by Kaspa Transmissions)