Our weekly feature - The Armchair Expert - returns just in time for the finals!
This week we look a...
16 hours ago
After a number of upset results in the Bartercard Cup last weekend, this week sees some more exciting games promised and the possibility of movement in the top five should we encounter some more of last week unexpected upsets.
Saturday will feature the Hibiscus Coast Raiders taking on the Marist Richmond Brothers. These two sides have already met once before this season when the Raiders were convincing winners by 37 - 18. Since then the Raiders have run into some patchy form and the Brothers are a lot better side than when the season started.
However they still manage to cause heart flutters for their supporters, as they did last week, in their 32 all draw with Glenora.
Hibiscus Coast had a much better game, but went down to Otahuhu 28 - 30.
The Raiders have another opportunity to recapture their earlier form at home.
Marist have the ability to score great tries be focusing on the defensive lapses that have allowed other sides to stay with them.
Injuries have cost the Raiders in recent weeks and in their game against Otahuhu they had to play usual loosie, Ritchie White, in the front row.
His popping partner was Powhiri Bidois, who is a recent signing from Taranaki.
He had a pretty good debut on Sunday but the Raiders certainly missed Anthony Seu Seu.
In what should be a free flowing game I pick the Raiders to win this by a narrow margin.
Mt Albert return home to Fowlds Park where they'll meet Central Falcons.
After their upset loss against Wellington last week, a team the Falcons drew with a couple of weeks ago, the Lions will want to quickly put that behind them. Although the Falcons are willing enough they'll have to play a lot better than they did in their loss to Northcote last week.
I think we'll see a Mt Albert side back to with a win to the home side.
Canterbury host the Otahuhu Leopards on Sunday. Following their fine win over the Raiders last week, they'll be to strong for the Bulls.
The Leopards have a big pack and an even bigger bench. The Bulls will have wave after wave of big forwards running at them and then their backs will cut lose. Providing the weather and ground conditions are favourable I'm afraid the outcome looks likely to be an Otahuhu victory, don't expect the Bulls to take this lying down.
Glenora are at home to Wellington. The question facing the Wellingtonian's is, can they put a string of good results together. Their upset against Mt Albert was further proof of the potential that this team has but they have to reproduce that form away from home.
They did that against Northcote the week before last and they'll need to do it again this week.
The Bears are an improving side that has been strengthened over recent weeks with a couple of new signings. However, I don't think that even the home ground advantage will be sufficient if Wellington is on song, and I expect the Gerard Stokes coached side to pick up another two points, although it could be a close run affair.
The Manurewa versus Taranaki match-up promises to be another exciting clash.
Taranaki are no pushovers. However, if the Marlins can reproduce their form of last week, when they beat the Tornadoes, then they'll be too strong at home for the Wildcats.
The final game of the weekend sees Northcote Tigers and the Eastern Tornadoes match up at Birkenhead on Sunday. The last time they met the Tigers snatched a win against expectations. They could do the same this weekend as they play the type of football that seems to confuse the Tornadoes.
While Northcote now has a stronger team than the one that kicked off the season, they'll still be missing the attacking prowess of injured fullback Kamahl Ganley.
They'll also want to use the skills of Lamond Copestake in the centres. Too often in recent games they haven't been using him as they should. However last week he managed to get his hands on the ball more often and rewarded his team with three tries.
The Tigers will also be hoping that kicker Jared Trott will re-discover his kicking boots as over the last two weeks he's suffered some uncharacteristic misses.
After a poor start to the season the Tornadoes have fought their way into second place on the championship ladder and they'll be kicking themselves for dropping a couple of points last week. They'll go into this one as favourites, however upsets are becoming common place and if there's to be another this week it could just go to the Tigers.