Metro miss out on home MRU semifinal on technicality

By Jared Smith

Despite having swept Feilding Yellows in both games during 2022’s MRU Colts competition, circumstances have still contrived for St Johns Whanganui Metro to make the long trek to Johnston Park on Saturday.

Coming into the weekend’s crucial last round robin games to decide semifinal placings, Metro ultimately didn’t take the field as winless travelling opponent Te Kawau RFC chose to default, with Metro therefore receiving the automatic five points.

The Yellows travelled to Bush Park and held off Bush SC 29-23 in a tight match, also securing a four-try bonus point.

The results moved both teams up onto equal 15 competition points with table leaders College Old Boys RFC, on the bye, with identical 3-1 records over the championship round.

Under MRU bylaws, if two teams are locked on points at the end of the regular season, priority is given to the team who won the game (s) between each other.

Unfortunately for Metro, in the case of a three-way tie, points differential from the specific games between those sides decides the final placings, which was enough for the Yellows to take second spot.

Different unions have different criteria for deciding points table priority – in the WFRU, the first decider in the case of three-way ties is results between the three sides, and if this is equal, as it was for the MRU grade, the second clause is number of tries scored.

Metro coach Mark Cosford rang the MRU when the initial online table showed his team only received four points for the default win and not five, which was amended, but at the same time he was informed it would not have mattered.

“I asked the question too, because last time we played the Yellows we beat them.

“It is what it is – we won down there three weeks ago and with the right attitude, we can do it again.”

Having split the championship finals in the last two seasons, this year Metro has beaten Feilding 38-22 and 31-17 respectively.

One can have paranoia over being an out-of-province team in a neighbouring conference regarding whether rules are being manipulated against you – in his fourth season of MRU Colts competition, Cosford recalls a few sketchy moments where players from Manawatu clubs with multiple Senior teams were suddenly available to step down from the higher level to play his side.

However, that suspicion has never fallen on the Yellows, despite their championship battles.

“Yellows are a good, honest side, know them well after the last couple of years,” said Cosford.

“The whole Metro group’s done well over the last few years, of making semifinals and then finals – always there or thereabouts.”

One advantage of the default is Metro have had time to get previously injured and sore players back to full fitness.

“This week just gone we would have been pretty depleted.”

Pivotal midfielder and goal kicker Joey Devine will return for the semifinal after several weeks absence, while prop Brandon Burberry and halfback Jerome McKenna have also had some much-needed recovery time.

Kickoff will be 12.45pm.