Another week draws to a close, and whilst there's plenty of sport to look forward to this weekend, much of it is off-shore. The Rugby World Cup draws ever closer, and we'll start to focus our attention more on that beginning tomorrow.
The ITM Cup competition comes to an end this weekend. In the Premiership division Waikato hosts Canterbury in a replay of last year's final. Stephen Donald's after-the-hooter try last week against Auckland brought Waikato level on points with the red-and-blacks on the points table. Waikato's victory over Canterbury during the round-robin phase gave them home advantage for the final which disappointed us, as we will be staying just down the road from Rugby Park in Christchurch tomorrow! This should be a cracker of a match, and though we risk alienating the Christchurch whanau, we reckon that Waikato might just be too good at home.
But the match of the weekend will be the Championship final at Palmerston North on Sunday. Manawatu hosts Hawkes Bay, and the two entertainers of the ITM Cup should ensure a high-energy match. Bear in mind that just two weeks away Manawatu blew Waikato off FMG Stadium in the performance of the season. The Bucket-heads will be out in force supporting Manawatu, and being Manawatu born and bred, there are no prizes for guessing who we are backing. Manawatu won the match earlier in the season, and we have every reason to believe that the green-and-whites will be back in the Premiership next season. This one should be a try-fest, and a great way for the ITM Cup to end; we might even be tempted to pop over to Palmy.
The Warriors' loss at St George last week dropped them from fouth to seventh in a congested NRL table. Their mission this weekend is simple; win, and win by as much as possible. North Queensland jumped ahead last week, but the Warriors can reverse that tomorrow night in Auckland. They then have to hope that both the Dragons and the Tigers get beaten, and they just may get a home semi-final, although it's not looking likely. On their day the Warriors can beat any team in the NRL, but whether they can peak for four weeks in a row during the finals series is the big question.
We've been watching a bit of the IAAF World Track and Field Championships this week. Two Kiwis have made the finals in their events tomorrow night. Nick Willis squeaked into the 1500m final by the barest of margins, whilst Stuart Farquhar qualified third in the men's javelin. Farquhar has been in outstanding form this season, and threw over 82 metres last night in difficult conditions. He is an outside chance for a medal.
Our first medals have been won in the World Rowing Championships. Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh won an absolute nail-biter to beat the British pair by the narrowest of margins; 0.08 seconds. And the women's quad won bronze in their finals. The only disappointment of the day was the failure of the men's eight to qualify for next year's Olympics; there is something about the eight, and we still have vivid memories of that magical day in Munich in 1972. There are plenty of Kiwi crews in action in finals over the next couple of days, and the medal count is likely to rise.
That's about it from our sports desk. We've got a few things that must be done before we fly south later in the day. In the meantime, the floor is yours...