The Magpie Premiers tasted success after a few lean weeks with a comfortable, albeit messy, win over Green Island 28-3 at Bathgate Park on Saturday.
After a few lean weeks it was an important victory, as the team couldn’t afford to be beaten by a team mid table and lose further touch with the Top 4. The match ended the first round of the Championship with Southern sitting in 6th spot but only 5 points off the 4th placed team.
While the team continued to make handling errors in attack – the character shown in defence was encouraging. Green Island had put 40 points around Dunedin the week before and were full of confidence. The Magpies were aggressive in defence and shut down all attacks from the Grizzlies, who didn’t get close to scoring a try.
It was a non flowing game due to the young up and coming referee making a lot of infringement rulings, rather than letting the advantage go. The set piece was strong from the Magpies, who had the advantage of all front row players being available – making for a strong bench. The loose trio were prominent in defence, but now have to connect together better in attack, with all 3 being quality ball runners. Kyle Harris at flanker was the pick of the loose forwards, in his second game back from injury.
New Highlanders hooking recruit Hame Faiva, who was surprisingly allocated to Southern, performed well in his first game and showed his devastating tackling style and strong running skills.
In the backs, enthusiasm couldn’t hide a lack of combination and precision. Bryce Hosie was heavily involved at first five, and Josh Gordon looked powerful at centre and tackled strongly. Unfortunately the backs drifted sideways on the pass and allowed the defence to easily cover them. It will no doubt be a work on this week to straighten the attack and use more dummy runners to cause more questions for the opposition. It was good to see the return of Eroni Sotutu who played the last 20 minutes at Centre and showed some nice touches.
This week the Prem’s takes on a stronger Kaikorai team who sit in 5th place at Bishopscourt – it is another crucial game in the season. A match against a team competing for the 3rd and 4th spot in a sense are worth “double points”.
Harbour wrested the Challenge Shield off Taieri with a 36-22 win
The Hawks also collect the Speight’s Jug for winning the first round.
University pumped Kaikorai 62-17 and is in a rich vein of form.
Dunedin was awful but still too good for Pirates, winning 58-13.
Zingari-Richmond showed more resistance this weekend but lost 41-32 to Alhambra-Union.