The University Mallee Bulls just need to conquer the Rams in today’s season-ending game to secure third spot. From left are Andrew Lindsay, Mitchell Bell, Charlie Freeman, Alex van Dartel, Matt Lee and Travis Hardaker. ANDY ZAKELIUniversity might be forced to field a 14-man side in the finals after Illawarra rugby officials refused to cut the club any slack over the eligibility of prop Amos Lees.
Lees has played only three of the required five first grade games to qualify for the play-offs, and will chalk up his fourth appearance in today’s meeting with Camden.
The Mallee Bulls lost prop Steve Elson (broken hand) last week, leaving the club thin in the front-row ranks.
Bulls coach Shaun McCreedy was hoping Illawarra Rugby Union (IRU) would allow Lees to play in the finals but it wasn’t to be.
‘‘We’re disappointed. If we lose one of our front-rowers this week we’ll go into the finals with only 14 players because of the uncontested [scrums] rule,’’ McCreedy said.
‘‘If we go to uncontested scrums, it makes it a farce of the semi-finals if one team has to play with 14 players the whole time.
‘‘We told [the IRU] our case, but they’ve pretty much closed up shop and said it won’t happen.
‘‘Hopefully it doesn’t come to the situation of 14 players, because you want to be able to play a proper game of rugby, not one that’s modified with uncontested scrums.’’
Despite the setback, Uni have shifted their focus to beating the Rams and clinching third spot.
‘‘We’ve sort of snuck up on everyone,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s been a good effort by the guys. We’ve been battling injuries all year and had a lot of key players out.
‘‘We had some long-term injuries, but what that did was give a lot of the younger players in the club a shot. They’ve stepped up and taken opportunities presented to them.
‘‘Some of our key personnel have started to come back and it’s given us some real momentum. The game time that some of those younger guys have got has helped the overall strength of our team.’’
Even if the Bulls don’t win, they might only need a bonus point to claim third.
Camden are out of finals contention, but will be out to spoil the visitors’ party.
‘‘It’s the last game of the season for them. They’re at home so I’m sure they’ll want to finish the season on a strong note,’’ McCreedy said.
‘‘They know if they beat us they can knock us down to fourth or fifth, so usually when you’re one of the lower teams, what you want to do is knock off the teams above you.
‘‘We know we need at least one point out of the game, but we’ll definitely be going there to win, just to keep up our momentum.’’
Meanwhile, Shamrocks will aim to snap a two-game losing skid in their home meeting with Vikings.
Today, kick off times 3pm
Kiama v Avondale, Kiama Showground
Camden v University, Camden Rugby Park
Bowral v Shoalhaven, Eridge Park
Shamrocks v Vikings, Ocean Park
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