For want of a system, I'm doing it this in Points Table order
No. 1 Waikato (8wins/1loss 7bps 39points) Clear minor champs, with only 1 loss to let us know they aren't semi-demi-gods (sorry guys but demi-god status is reserved for dominant S12 champs .-)
It has been shown before that the Chef's year is not a good indication for Waikato's NPC form. I’m glad they could shake that off.
They had new Coach Ian (Fozzie) Foster this year - I wonder how much is attributable to his influence, and if we will see him making the step up to S12. No... let's wait a year or so for that.
Damn good to see consistent results from another team other than Canterbury!
Daylight, part 1!
No. 2 Canterbury (7wins/2loss 5bps 33points) You only have to look at the table to see that Canterbury had a less than convincing, though good year. 6 points shy of 1st and only 1 point clear of 3rd.
The loss to Waikato was convincing in the end, but was long enough ago that it shouldn't matter should they meet in the finals. Certainly the loss to Wellington was annoying, but I don't think anyone except the Red Headed Hooker has any nightmares about it.
There were certainly clinical displays at times - but enough young guys to keep it from being cynical. Also enough old hands to know that it doesn't matter if you don't score any tries against Auckland, as long as you win!
Canterbury has still got the will, and the knowledge to win.
So, will the semi against Auckland show the real levels of the two teams? Probably... and it will be damned exciting - if the rain stays away!
No. 3 Auckland (6wins/3loss 8bps 32points) If there are brownie points for best points differential then Auckland get full credit for their 158 (Waikato 134, Canterbury 122). Of course they earned the most bonus points along the way, but you don't need a degree in Statistics to see how those two go together.
That loss to the Naki is going to hurt at least until rematch time next year. Losing in the rain to Canterbury might niggle a bit. But at least they didn't get a hiding from Waikato - still they didn't get any bonus points either!
Ask any Cantabrian and they will tell you of the rivalry with Auckland. But ask an Aucklander, and I don't think that it is such an issue for them.
Personally I don't care, as long as Auckland think that way - it just makes beating them easier.
No. 4 Otago (6win/3loss 5bps 29points) Congratulations to Otago for a tidy fourth, and bloody well done for beating Waikato!
Still they just added to the tallies of losses to Canterbury, and Auckland. While losing to the Naki at the Bread Bins' opening night is taking sportsmanship just a little too far.
I think that the prize for their overall efforts is therefore somewhat appropriate, playing Waikato again in the semis.
But... do beat Waikato again this weekend! If you don't mind?
No. 5 Wellington (5win/4loss 6bps 26points) Ok... when do you think these results are going to change how good Wellington look on paper? Because result wise they aren't looking that hot.
But maybe I am looking at it the wrong way.
What happens if you take a sometimes brilliant and sometimes woeful team (like the 'Canes for instance!-) and you split it in half to make two teams. What chance have these two teams have of performing well?
It is fair to say that both teams were doomed to mediocrity as the most shredded S12 franchise? Yes.
Does that matter a damn? And does that make Nathan feel any better?
I'm guessing no.
Or more to the point - NOT BLOODY LIKELY !!!
No. 6 Taranaki (5win/4loss 3bps 23points) Short of the three hidings, the Naki would have to be happy with this NPC. They got a couple of big scalps in Auckland and Otago, and came top of all the non-S12 provinces.
(Last year I would have included North Harbour as a prize scalp, but this year beating them isn't such an achievement.)
And when the Naki boys return to the Hurricanes, they will be able to let the Lions know how to win at Eden park!
No. 7 North Harbour (3win/6loss 5bps 17points) How the mighty have fallen. Welcome to the pits! Ok they haven't achieved minnow status yet (by virtue of beating all 3 of them), but it is mighty shaky position to be in.
The discussion board is already suggesting how the Blues will be easier to pick next year, simply ignore anyone from NH! I expect many older players, the coach/team management and Sponsors to do a runner.
For me their season was like blinking whilst driving through a small town, I know the result but can't remember a thing about it.
If there is a stanch NH supporter out there, let us hear your impressions of this NPC!
Daylight, part 2!
No. 8 Northland (2win/7loss 3bps 11points) What the hell happened to these guys? - I mean apart from losing to everyone but Southland and BOP, and gaining very few bonus points!
At least they were "4 try" bps, from their games against BOP, Southland, and surprisingly Waikato.
But no surprise scalps to brag about this year, and it would have been tense right 'til week 9. That last-up win against the Swede-munchers pulling them out of the poo.
Talk about leaving your run late!
But they have been in "it" since week 1, they will have to scrub fairly hard to get rid of the smell!
No. 9 Southland (2win/7loss 2bps 10points) No surprises here, managed to achieve 9th and beat the Lions, again!
They picked up a win against the Naki as well.
Hey... does that mean they beat the Hurricanes?
That last gasp bonus point took them clear of BOP, but surely they were safe anyway on point differential. Or is it larger number of bonus points that decides? Anyone?
No. 10 Bay of Plenty - !Wooden Spoon! (1win/8loss 5bps 9points) Good number of bonus points and a win over Southland, but it didn't save them from the relegation match.
Will nine weeks hard work in the 1st Division help them fend off the 2nd Division Champ?
It usually does!
Well that's (mostly) it for another year of 1st Division NPC.
Lastly my thanks to the NZRFU for their really useful website "www.nzrugbynet.com". (This is somewhat more general than “www.nzrfu.co.nz” - allblacks.com.)
It has a link to each province’s website, or hosts one for them.
It's a great plan, one which they probably stole off Rugbyheads - Bringing rugby to the web-masses!