The Premiers were back to their best form and completed a comprehensive win over Alhambra Union 48-3 at the North Ground on Saturday.
The first time the Magpies played Alhambra-Union they scored 48 points in the first half and then allowed their opposition to score 31 unanswered points in the second half. There was no opportunity of that happening on Saturday with the Southern forwards dominating their opposites in general play, while the backs did the same to their opposites in both attack and defence. Southern led 28-3 at halftime and didn’t give Alhambra-Union’s enterprising backs an opportunity to score a try throughout the match.
The Magpies came out firing and scored 2 tries within 10 minutes to take early control and never look back. The misty conditions didn’t prevent good ball handling by the Southern team, with their hard running forwards regularly gaining the advantage line, and accurate passing in the backs outflanking the defence.
Josh Walden controlled the game well from halfback with good service to Bryce Hosie at first five eighth, and challenged the inside channel with sniping runs. Outside Walden and Hosie the midfield of Tai Walden and partner Nathan Cargo really impressed, they ran strongly and set up their outsides well when it was time to go wider. They both scored a brace of tries. Ryan Tongia returned to the team at fullback after returning from South Africa with the Highlanders and kept his try scoring record up. Michael Blanks on the right wing had his best game for the Premiers with his high work rate and has showed his ability in the absence of pacy injured wingers Eroni Sotutu and Josh Gordon.
Up front the Magpie forwards were “too big and too strong”. A harder nosed approach this week, with no let up in intensity, allowed domination throughout the match. No 8 Mika Mafi ran the ball at the line relentlessly, while flank Adam Knight continued his form with strong defence and strong ball running that must have him in contention for the Otago team. Lock Ryan Thompson had a high work rate and is a consistent lineout option, and his partner Tim Ferguson is a powerhouse in general play.
The most impressive facet for the whole team was their intensity and concentration in defence, an area that would have given the most satisfaction to their coaches, after a disappointing performance in that facet the week prior.
The win with a bonus point for the 4+ tries has returned the Southern team to the top of table. Although Harbour in 2nd place is the form team of the moment after comprehensively disposing of fellow contenders Taieri 27-5. Dunedin maintained 4th place with an big win over bottom place Green Island.
Harbour 27, Taieri 5
Dunedin 52, Green Island 7
Southern 48, Alhambra-Union 3
University A 18, Pirates 11
Zingari-Richmond 25, Kaikorai 25