Grand Final XV in America
By Brian Lowe, Date 16/8/12
The 2012 American National Rugby League championship game will be a replay of the 2011 matchup between the New York Knights and Connecticut Wildcats.
The Knights won the 2011 Championship with a 38-4 victory, but this Saturday they'll face a Wildcats team with a ton of momentum, as they surged into their 7th Grand Final appearance.
Having not lost a match since Round 2 of the regular season, the Knights have a number of big match players who could loom as potential game breakers for the defending champions. Among them are Todd Fisher and Andrew Moody. Fisher is the leading points-scorer for the competition, while Moody is third overall in tries.
The Wildcats also have a number of players primed for big time playoff games. Leading from the front is the AMNRL's top try-scorer Michael Goward. The Cats playmaker has been in scintillating form this season and will play a key role in Saturday's matchup.
"We try to have a pretty simple approach to this Grand Final," said New York head coach Guillaume Cieutat. "First, we don't consider ourselves as favorites and we expect a tough encounter. There is no such thing as defending premiers for us. We have a lot of respect for the Wildcats because they caused us a lot of trouble across the park every time we played against them during the regular season. They are definitely the team with momentum at the moment with their last win against the Bulls.
"That being said, we're going to work very hard to impose our own rhythm to the game and consistently apply our brand of footy over 80mins. We're not building a special plan for this game, we want to stick with our footy DNA and just produce a solid performance. If we do that, we are confident we can ask the Cats some tough questions."
Connecticut player/coach Curtis Cunz says his team has a definite game plan.
"We almost beat the Knights in our first clash and in our second match we killed ourselves with mistakes and not taking advantage of theirs. By focusing on a much tighter defense and working them to their backs ultimately slowing down the play of the ball we will give ourselves the chance to win. Offensively scoring points have never been a problem and we can score with the best of them so completing our sets will be the fundamental goal."
Players to look out for on the Knights roster include props Kirk Miller and Manny Cipriani, lock James Carder, and back rowers Calder Orr and Abe Cohen have all been tremendous performers this season.
"You simply don't win premierships without these kinds of guys," added Cieutat.
For the Wildcats, it's no secret try scoring champ Goward will have to play his usual strong game, along with Matt Walsh on offense and on defense expect Salesi Tongamoa, Mike Schacter and Cunz to set the tone of the game.
"I think the defense will have to win the game for us," said Cunz. "This can't be a shootout."