STOP Richard Manion.
That’s the mantra from Charles Sturt University ahead of its sudden-death semi-final against the Albury Wodonga Steamers and their classy fly-half on Saturday.
The ledger stands at a win apiece this season — CSU beating the blue and golds at Murrayfield and the Steamers returning the favour when they travelled to Wagga.
But the rift runs even deeper after last year’s undefeated premiers survived a scare in the major semi when the Reddies’ late charge came up five points short, only to lose the following week and not contest the decider.
Last season it was former CSU man Dave Stuart at the helm of the Steamers, this year it’s another old boy in Mick Raynes.
But Reddies coach Mick Wakeling said that wouldn’t get in the way at the Connolly Rugby Complex.
“After we were beaten by Griffith a few weeks back, we realised the best we could do was finish third or fourth. We knew we would be playing an elimination final,” he said.
“So we wanted to build some momentum, knew we had to win four more games to take the title. We started with the first one last week against Tumut.
“All I know is that we don’t want our season to be over on Saturday night.
“We need to stop Richard Manion — he was the difference when they beat us up here and we can’t get sucked in by their game plan — we can’t afford for the inside backs to be dragged into the maul and ruck contests.”
Reddies reserve prop Leon Post joined first-choice frontrowers Dugald Robertson and Greg Eldridge on the sidelines after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last week.
But halfback Justin Wakeling and fullback Orisi Qilai are expected to play, despite being replaced against the Bulls.
Earlier in the season, a lack of ball security was blamed when the Steamers were beaten 36-22 but in the first week of the split divisions the blue and golds outclassed the Reddies 41-17.
Wakeling said it all came down to who wanted it more.
“We were a lot more focused when we went down there and they were a lot more focused when they came up here,” he said.
“I don’t see that here is much between these two teams, even though we play very different rugby.
“If they get to play their style, we struggle and if they let us play our style, they struggle.
“Someone asked me last year whether I knew what these guys were going to do and I said I didn’t have a bloody clue — it is very much ad lib rugby.
“We have a plan but if the opportunity is there we are not afraid to go with it.”