Southern crank it up in second half against Alhambra-Union

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The Premiers beat Alhambra-Union 55-33 at Bathgate Park on Saturday in the Gainsborough Shield match.

The Gainsborough Shield is played for between the teams finishing 5th-8th after the regular season. It was the first year for sometime Southern found themselves out of the semi-finals and the first half gave the distinct impression that the team hadn’t mentally tuned in for the match after missing the Top 4 the previous week.

8th placed Alhambra-Union started strongly and capitalised on Southern errors to score two early tries. The Magpies made numerous handling and tactical errors and didn’t fire many shots, however a couple of late tries by Southern reduced the visitors lead to 19-15 at the half time break.

After the break, and no doubt a stern talking to from the Coaches, the Southern side transformed and showed all the skill, pace and power that had all supporters wishing they were watching a semi final. They blew Alhambra-Union off the park with a 20 minute scoring spree rattling up 40 unanswered points. The visitors scored two late consolation tries to bring the score some respectability.

The team was at full strength for the one of the few times this season. Eroni Sotutu, Ryan Tongia, Mika Mafi all scored two tries each, and had fine games. Adam Knight and Mike Mata’afa were prominent and have been consistently strong forwards all season, while the growth of young forwards Cam Keach and Axel Hohneck is encouraging for next season.

The game also marked the final game in the black and white (unless a great lawyers job eventuates in Dunedin!) for Ryan Thompson who graduates from the University at the end of the year. It was also his 50th match. Ryan has been a very valuable player in the Club and a player who will be sorely missed. He is not the biggest lock, but  his line skills and work rate are up with the best in Dunedin. His intelligence, leadership and work ethic will be missed by the team and the Club. It was great to have his family and friends down (many from up North) to see his Blazer presentation. Hopefully he can wear his Blazer to work!

Southern are due to meet Taieri in the final of the Gainsborough Shield on Saturday at Bathgate Park, but the late mail says Taieri have defaulted this game due to player shortage. Is it a coincidence that this happens when the Taieri Premier 2s and Colts are in top positions in their respective grades? Does the Premier team – the shop window of a club – not take priority? It is a disappointing finish for the Premiers not to be able to play a final match together, and the resulting affect on the Club bar. 
Now it is time for the Club supporters to get out and support the other teams for the next few weeks, and get back to the club afterwards.

In a couple of semi-final “upsets” 3rd placed Dunedin beat Harbour 21-20 in a cliff hanger, with Dunedin kicking a penalty in the final minute. 4th placed Kaikorai beat hot favourite University two weeks in a row, and will start favourite in the final. Kaikorai scored 2 tries in the last 5 minutes to win the match 31-29, after University led 22-5.