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2 days ago
The Counties-Manukau Jetz will have a size advantage in the Bartercard Cup rugby league preliminary final on Sunday, and Mt Albert will have to play smart footy rather than physical to win it.
Mt Albert have chosen not to dwell on their loss to Canterbury last weekend, preferring to take positives from their season because there were few they could take from that defeat.
"The Bulls completely outplayed us and should have won by more," Lions coach Brian McClennan said of the result that sent Canterbury straight to the grand final.
"Our ability to score tries out of nowhere saved us. We did that twice in the first half and it saved us. The Bulls were far better than us; I'd love to play them again in the grand final."
The Jetz took a hammering from North Harbour in their semifinal.
Coach Dean Hunter reported several players were unable to take part in training early this week, among them last weekend's two-try Warriors development player Sonny Fa'i.
Hunter said he was pleased with the character shown by his side against the Tigers.
"There were times we could have put our heads down and said 'that's it for this year', but we never did. The Tigers had back-to-back sets on our line and we disciplined ourselves. I was pleased with the outcome of the game, obviously, but I was more pleased with our composure and character."
There was great respect for the Lions, Hunter said.
"They are the best team on the park. They have class and experience right across the park. Their younger guys are all in the semi-pro development ranks. We're not going in with any illusions."
The Jetz give themselves every chance of winning.
"Noone will give an inch. It's a simple game and if we can hang on to 80 per cent of our ball, if we can complete our sets, we put ourselves in with a chance," Hunter said.
"If we give them the ball, they'll walk all over us. But I think it will come down to some special plays by some special players."
The Lions will be favourites. One player who had little impact last weekend was their captain and five-eighth Steve Buckingham.
Mt Albert did not complete their sets and Buckingham did not get into the game.