ODT Club rugby report from the weekend:
The tipsters might want to spend the week in bed after a surprising opening round of club rugby in which three of the four heavyweights started the season with a loss.
Defending champion Southern was out-muscled by Green Island, losing 33-29. Harbour, which was the runner-up last year, was stunned 25-15 by Zingari-Richmond, while University beat Kaikorai 41-25 at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.
The only result which seemingly made any sense was Dunedin’s comfortable 34-3 win against Alhambra-Union.
Green Island 33
Who saw that coming?
Southern was tipped up by Green Island at its beloved Bathgate Park.
The first round can throw up the odd interesting result but this was a game between the top ranked side and the team which finished last in 2017.
It ought to have been a relatively comfortable fixture for the defending champion except it was beaten at its own game.
It was Green Island which flexed the most muscle around the ruck, battering the ball up through human medieval siege weapons Lafele Fa’amoe and Kalolo Tuiloma.
Tuiloma had a solid game at tighthead, lending his considerable bulk to the scrum effort.
But he was at his best in the loose, charging the ball up and grabbed two tries in a stunning opening 40 minutes by the visitors. Fa’amoe also got across the line to help Green Island forge a 30-3 lead at the break.
Former Southern first five-eighth Ben Patston drilled four penalties and three conversions in a flawless display of goalkicking, while loose forward Josh Clark stood out as always.
Southern grabbed some late joy, scoring three tries in the last five minutes to salvage two bonus points from the game.
Winger Josh Gordon scored two of those three tries and got one earlier in the second half to net three in all.
But the biggest winner was Green Island front rower Peter Mirrielees who got to celebrate his 200th senior game with a victory.
Highlanders Greg Pleasant-Tate and Tevita Nabura played a major role in Zingari-Richmond’s Challenge Shield win against holder Harbour at Watson Park.
Hooker Pleasant-Tate played a key role in helping the forward pack overcome the size and strength of the Harbour pack, while Nabura’s presence in midfield gave the backs the confidence to expose lapses in the Harbour backline.
Replaced by Karl Still after 60min, Pleasant-Tate’s inspiration to the pack remained firmly entrenched in what was a superb display from the pack.
Lock Elli Tonga, whose nine clean lineout takes, high work rate and ability to break the first tackle around the fringes, set a platform for first five-eighth and captain Thomas Johnson to unleash the line-breaking skills of Nabura and Keenan Masina.
After the two sides exchanged penalty goals in the opening minutes of play, it was Johnson who set the game alight when he intercepted a pass close to his own line. He sprinted 90m up field and passed infield to Nabura, who scored between the posts.
There was another crucial intercept in the final minute. Harbour trailed 15-18 and was hammering away at the line when Nabura came up with the ball.
He ran away to score and seal the victory. The Challenge Shield will take residence at Montecillo for the first time since 2009.
Dunedin controlled the first half on the back of its dominant scrum. It controlled territory and possession and after 10 minutes was rewarded with a try to hooker Ayden Lloyd out wide after a concerted period of attack on the Alhambra-Union line.
It then scored from a scrum close to the line from a tight head and No8 Morgan Reedy crashed over close to the posts for George Witana to bang over the conversion.
Dunedin should have scored a couple of more tries but wasted the opportunities and had only a Witana penalty to show for the last 20 minutes of the spell. To add insult, AU first five-eighth Zach Porter nailed a penalty right on halftime to reduce the lead to 12.
The game was a messy old affair and not helped by referee Jono Bredin dishing out five yellow cards and a red for a variety of offences. The red was bizarre as replacement No10 for Dunedin Nikau McGregor had only been on the field for 12 seconds when he was shown the door for repeated infringing.
Dunedin scored three cracking tries in the second spell from long range with Tim Hogan, Solofa Silipa and Josh McKay going over. The second, to Silipa, was a fantastic effort from 70m with some great interchanges of passes from the Dunedin backline.
Alhambra-union dominated the second spell for long periods but could not breech the Dunedin defence. Its had no points to show for its dominance. Its attack looked stodgy and slow and lacked imagination as they resorted to crash and bash which yielded no result.
For Dunedin, flanker Jamie Mowat made a mountain of tackles, Hame Toma was never far from the ball and lock Liam Trainer was tireless. The backs looked sharp with Silipa a tower of strength and wingers Duncanson and Harrison-Jones looked dangerous out wide. Highlander Josh McKay was strong and electric on the break from fullback.
For Alhambra-Union, blindside Tuoimanufili was its best with his aggression and lock Ben Webby never gave up.
Green Island 33 (Kalolo Tuiloma 2, Lafele Fa’amoe tries; Ben Patston 4 pen, 3 con), Southern 29 (Josh Gordon 3, Riku Kitahara tries; Bryce Hosie pen, con, Jono Hayes 2 con). Halftime: 30-3.
Dunedin 34 ( Ayden Lloyd, Morgan Reedy, Tom Hogan, Solofa Silipa, Josh McKay tries; George Witana 2 con, pen, McKay con), Alhambra-Union 3 (Zach Porter pen). Halftime: 15-3.
Zingari-Richmond 25 (Tevita Nabura 2, Greg Pleasant-Tate tries; Thomas Johnson 2 con, 2 pen), Harbour 15 (Ngana Nicholas, Ben Pringle tries; Tala Fagasoaia con; Logan Allen pen). Halftime: 15-3 Zingari-Richmond.