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Club rugby: Understrength Pirates-Old Boys stun Woodlands in thriller

Its first points to Pirates-Old Boys – just.

Many have circled Pirates-Old Boys and Woodlands as the leading contenders for the 2022 Southland premier club rugby Galbraith Shield title.

On Saturday the two teams locked horns in round three of the competition, and it took a last-minute try to Isaac Te Tamaki to lift Pirates-Old Boys to a thrilling 27-26 victory.

Pirates-Old Boys went into the fixture missing seven key players because of Covid-19. It prompted a makeshift forward pack to try to counter a Woodlands pack with plenty of strength about it.

Even Pirates-Old Boys co-coach Ben McHugh was surprised with just what unfolded from his understrength pack in the first 40 minutes of the game.

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Woodlands first five-eighth Marty McKenzie runs with the ball while Pirates-Old Boys hooker Alex Fraito lines up the tackle during the Southland premier club rugby fixture.

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Woodlands first five-eighth Marty McKenzie runs with the ball while Pirates-Old Boys hooker Alex Fraito lines up the tackle during the Southland premier club rugby fixture.

He declared it his team’s best half of rugby during his five years at the club. Pirates-Old Boys led 22-11 at the break despite playing into the wind.

But how rugby can change.

For 35 minutes of the second half Woodlands dominated proceedings, and in particular, the ball, as the likes of halfback Liam Howley and first five-eighth Marty McKenzie took change.

All that the Pirates-Old Boys team could do is tackle like their lives depended on it, but even so, Woodlands scored 15 unanswered points to push out to a 26-22 lead.

In the dying minutes Pirates-Old Boys was able to finally get their hands on the ball and on the back of a couple of penalties marched down the field before Te Tamaki scored out wide to snatch a 27-26 lead.

Woodlands grabbed possession from the kick-off but lock Jacob Harrex produced a big play when he turned the ball over and Pirates-Old Boys were able to find the touchline and nail the win.

Woodlands second five-eighth Tauasosi Tuimavave is tackled by his Pirates-Old Boys opposite Jaye Thompson during the Southland premier club rugby fixture in Invercargill on Saturday.

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Woodlands second five-eighth Tauasosi Tuimavave is tackled by his Pirates-Old Boys opposite Jaye Thompson during the Southland premier club rugby fixture in Invercargill on Saturday.

The win was a massive confidence boost for Pirates-Old Boys and probably highlighted that the Surrey Park-based club has the most depth out of any in Southland at the moment given what it was able to do with an under-resourced team.

Usual hooker Josh Harwood slotted in on the blindside flank on Saturday and was outstanding, in particular with his work rate in defense, as was Harrex.

The sour point for Pirates-Old Boys on Saturday was an injury to its fullback Kaea Nikora-Balloch. Nikora-Balloch dislocated his shoulder and there are concerns about how long he may be sidelined for, given he is part of this year’s Highlanders under-20s setup.

While Pirates-Old will take a significant amount of confidence out of the fact it has plenty of players to return, Woodlands too is in a similar boat.

Included is Stags midfielder Matt Whaanga who was making the shift back down to Invercargill on Sunday.

It took a rampant second performance by the Eastern-Northern Barbarians to shake off the Midlands in the premier fixture played in Winton on Saturday.

The Barbarians led just 8-6 at halftime playing into a strong wind as the Midlands put the fellow country club under pressure, in particular at the breakdown.

However, after a chat at halftime with coach Bretton Taylor the Barbarians took its game up a level in the second half racking up 40 points to claim a 48-13 victory.

Second five-eighth Angus Simmers, lock Brenton Howden, and halfback Levi Wairau were the Barbarains’ best throughout the 80 minutes.

It’s been a stop-start season to date for the Barbarians, given last week Star pulled out of the fixture because of Covid-19 in the camp, while next week it has the bye.

It also took a dominant second half from Blues to pull away from Star’s premier game played at Waverley Park on Saturday.

Blues led just 15-7 at halftime, and also had a player red-carded for a tackle which went wrong, meaning Star went into the halftime break viewing an upset on the horizon with the wind behind them.

However, Blues scored 31 unanswered second half points to bank a 46-7 win.

Its pack put Star under plenty of pressure, especially at scrum time before Star was able to bring tight-head prop Nico Manaena off the bench.

Star also struggled to contain Blues’ maul with it picking up a penalty try from a lineout drive which ended up seeing wing Fale Iosefa shown a yellow card in the first half.

Blues backline, through the likes of center Kalani Elder and fullback Brad Kooman, were also ruthless on any counter-attack options that eventuated.

For Star, Stags hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate, playing at No 8, probably provided its biggest attacking threat with ball in hand, while lock Lachlan Springford impressed with his work rate.

Star’s next assignment will be against the Midlands as both teams will look to register win No 1 for 2022.

RESULTS

Premier

Eastern-Northern Barbarians 48, Midlands 13; Blues 46, Star 7; Pirates-Old Boys 27, Woodlands 26.

Division One

Edendale 62, Drummund-Limehills-Star 12; Wyndham 36, Mataura 14; Pioneer 37, Te Anau 22; Waikaka/Riversdale 29, Waikiwi 24; Tokanui v Albion cancelled.

Division Two

Riverton 18, Collegiate 16; Balfour/Lumsden 30, Waiau Star 29; Mossburn 65, Central Pirates 7; Bluff 38, Ohai Nightcaps 24.

Division Two (Development)

Wakatipu 25, Midlands 18; Star 22, Blues 22; Pirates-Old Boys 41, Woodlands 17.

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