Semi-finals rugby hits CH
SEMI-FINALS rugby will hit the Highlands this weekend as teams jostle for a position in the race to the all-important Central Highlands Rugby Union Grand Final early next month.
The Capella Cattle Dogs are biting at the bit after a 70-odd point thrashing of the Rolleston Roos at the weekend.
Capella's confidence-boosting win in the last of the regular round fixtures has the Dogs with a back-to-back premiership in their sights.
But it won't come easy by any means, with all games requiring nothing less than victory to keep their finals' hopes alive.
The Dogs will face their first test against the Moranbah Bulls tomorrow afternoon in Capella.
Light on numbers but big on surprises, the Bulls are renowned for pulling off a win when teams least expect it - a trait Capella coach Chris Roberts said he was treating "very cautiously".
Naturally, it's this underdog tag which Moranbah club president Kristian Paul hoped to use to their advantage in tomorrow's semi-final.
"We are the unknown entity," Paul said.
"We've beaten them once before albeit against 15 players. But if we can get the players to training then we're a chance.
"They (Capella) are beatable."
But the number's game appears to be an ongoing issue for the Bulls, who forfeited their last start in the competition and followed it up with two successive byes. A high number of injuries compounds their predicament.
"We've got seven starters out with injury - that's half our team," Paul said.
"And given we only travel away with 13 or so players … we've struggled."
The Dogs meanwhile are mending a few bridges on their own on the injury front.
No.8 Jessie McMillan is expected to make a welcome return after five weeks out with a busted shoulder.
"He's had a bit of a rough trot with injury, but he's a good player and can give the side that extra bit of confidence," coach Roberts said.
Fellow forward Nathan Lord more than ably picked up the slack in the Dogs pack, bestowed a players' player commendation at the weekend.
In tomorrow's second semi-final the Emerald Rams face their second match in as many weeks against the Clermont Bush Pigs, after copping a hammering by the Pigs in last weekend's final round encounter.