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The Air NZ Cup NPC Finals

Scott Newman
Scott Newman

The Air New Zealand Cup has ended with an emphatic Canterbury win against Wellington! In one of the closest competitions in NPC history with a level playing field I now want to ask "why change a thing?"

The provinces did manage to get bums on seats for a majority of the competition. Take a look at how consistent Southland & Hawke's Bay had been throughout the season. They earned their right to play in the finals. The Stags achieved a lot in winning the Ranfurly Shield off Canterbury at the end of the round robin. Hawke's Bay brought the faithful crowd out every time playing an attractive style of rugby against the big guns in the game.

Manawatu & Tasman also had great success through the campaign almost pushing every team with their attacking style. Bay of Plenty had a great start but could not maintain the whole way. You would have to say the worst teams arguably were Auckland, Counties & North Harbour. (This does not bode well for the Auckland Blues) Wellington did well to come back and then become the team to beat. Mixed success for the remaining teams of Northland, Otago, Taranaki & Waikato. Overall I found it a most enjoyable season!

Perhaps the NZRFU should think about not changing anything with the current standard/development through the competition showed that it is successful at generating interest in the national game. All of the minor unions exceeded expectations (except maybe Counties Manukau/North Harbour) The public wanted to watch the games as I am sure the Sky TV statistics would reveal all.

Canterbury did not have a huge crowd in the final. The championship was not a given for them but they did not manage a huge crowd at all? I think if the final had been played elsewhere then things may have been different. The red & blacks deserved to win by putting in such hard work in particular from role players Casey Laulala, Colin Slade, Stephen Brett, Sean Maitland & George Whitelock.

Wellington showed class in Attacking in their win over Southland (a hung over Stags team?) then tried all they could against Canterbury. A lot can be taken from the season in the fact that they recovered from an average start to almost steal a win. They have proven to be a constant threat every year. One season they may be able to win it all. You take a look at the current All Blacks to see they are mostly from these two provinces.

I finished the Virtual Rugby season with 669 points (6,805 out of 61,265 people) after such a strong start I faded away as I started getting too experimental with my picks.

So what do you think will happen regarding the future of the National Provincial Championship? It must be about time we stayed consistent in our planning as the Rugby World Cup is just around the corner. We need our national competition to be the cornerstone to developing our best players for the year of their lives in 2011!

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