Southern played Harbour in a replay of the 2017 Club final last Thursday evening (due to Easter) in front of a small crowd at Watson Park, with the end result being a 29-29 draw.
Southern all but had the game won leading 29-22, only needing to kick the ball into touch from a defensive scrum, but it was knocked on from the base and allowed Harbour to work their way into position to score out wide and then convert it from the sideline with time up.
The Harbour forwards had the edge in general play and the better scrum, their biggest threat came from their in close ball runners who crossed the gain line and scored three tries from 5m out, albeit from some fragile defence from the Magpies. The loss of Mika Mafi at 8 in the first half due to an ankle injury took away the packs main ball runner, and it took until the second half for the team to reset these responsibilities. The lineout despite having 2 very tall men at lock – Highlander Pari Pari Parkinson and new recruit Caleb Aperahama, was still shaky due to the new combinations and will be a work on for the team in the coming week.
The backs had the better or the Harbour, and created plenty of chances, and scored 4 tries, with another cruelly ruled out by the touch judge for an offside that didn’t have any affect on the play.
Josh Ioane playing his first game of the season for Southern – now that he is a fully fledged professional player with the Highlanders – showed his class with dangerous runs and deft cross kicks, and scored a nice individual try showing his great acceleration. Mackenzie Haugh also looked dangerous with ball in hand on the right wing, while new halfback Liam Howley looked sharp as he pushes for an Otago contract.
Southern now have a draw and a loss to start the season in what looks, in the early stages anyway, to be a very even competition.
They will take on Zingari-Richmond next Saturday for the Eric Watson Cup at Bathgate Park. Zingari have been in the bottom 4 in recent seasons, but they beat Harbour in week one, and lost on fulltime to Kaikorai last week to a late penalty, to show they will be very competitive.
ODT Summary and scores
University remains at the top of the competition standings following a convincing 46-10 win against Alhambra-Union.
Southern and Harbour are still winless in 2018, after battling to a 29-29 draw.
Taieri shocked Dunedin with a 51-11 win, signalling it will be a much tougher prospect this season.
Kaikorai wrested the Challenge Shield off Zingari-Richmond with a tense 18-17 win.
Southern 29 (Mika Mafi, Jono Hayes, Josh Ioane, Simon Knight tries; Bryce Hosie 3 con, pen), Harbour 29 (Alan Burling, Joketani Koroi, Sione Misiloi, Kaleb Forde-Fraser tries; Logan Allen con, pen, Tala Fagasoaia 2 con). Halftime: Southern 12-8.
University 46 (Taylor Haugh 2, Jack McHugh, Tyler Beary, Tom Morrison, Gavin Stark tries; Dominic Clapcott 3 con, 2 pen, Haugh 2 con), Alhambra-Union 10 (Tia Ratu try; Zac Porter con, pen). Halftime: 32-10.
Kaikorai 18 (Matt Jones, Terence Hepetema tries; Gus Gray con, 2 pen), Zingari-Richmond 17 (Tevita Nabura 2 tries; Thomas Johnson 2 con, pen). Halftime: 14-10 Zingari-Richmond.
Taieri 51 (Kurt Hammer 3, Kori Rupene 2, Tom Hill, Josh Larsen tries; Josh Casey 3 con, 1 pen; Brodie Flannery 2 con, 1 pen) Dunedin 11 (Morgan Reedy try, George Witana 2 pen)