Tighter, closer outcomes amid sudden switch to wintry conditions

The sudden switch to wintry conditions was reflected in tighter and closer outcomes in Southland-wide division two rugby games on Saturday.

Coaches said teams that adapted best to the polar blast prospered. Some games were greatly affected by snow and sleet.

In the high wind, the need for short and accurate passing and tight forward control were essential ingredients for success. It was a case of out with the autumn and in with the winter.

Riverton played better to the conditions when edging out visitors Marist 5-0 in a top-of-the-table clash. Hosts Blues did likewise, outscoring visitors Wrights Bush 20-5.

Midlands also reacted better to the wintry blast with their 17-5 win over visitors Pirates Old Boys.

"Our pack stuck together and combined for a big effort," Riverton associate coach Joel Allen said.

Those comments were echoed by Marist manager Regan Dunne. "We were trying to play summer rugby in a galeforce wind, whereas Riverton adapted well." Riverton have won seven of their eight games. Allen rated it a "big thrill to beat a leading team in front of our home crowd".

The Riverton forwards ground Marist down in a game punctuated by wind, rain, hail and snow.

Albion Excelsior dug deep to nose out impressive visitors Waiau Star 17-16 at Gore. Successful coach Jason Webb said the even complexion of the "enjoyable competition" was now becoming the name of the game. Big Shannon Robinson, Jake Morton and Dion McGuigan were three of his best players.

Waiau Star coach Jerry Adams said he was "very happy" with his team, which had only two reserves.

"Our loosies played well but the forwards found big opposition captain Shannon Robinson hard to counter when he got his arms around the ball."

Collegiate manager David McIntosh praised beaten hosts Central Star after his team's 24-7 win at Wilsons Crossing.

"The score was perhaps not a true indication of Central Star's showing . . . They are never easy to beat on their home ground. There is hardly an easy game in this competition now."

Rival coach Brad Anderson welcomed McIntosh's comments, saying his forwards "stood up with much commitment" in atrocious conditions at times. Prop Richard Innes and flanker Cam Fortune, until he retired with a knee injury, contributed well.

Playing sensible winter rugby by "keeping ball tight and in hand" was the key to hosts Midlands beating Pirates-Old Boys 17-5 at Winton, successful coach Steve Unahi said.

That ploy was complemented by pivot Tyler Johnson directing play efficiently. Prop Mathew Thomson kept his forwards moving forward, complemented by hard-working No 8 Nathan Dickens.

"The game was played in good spirit with Midlands' tight tactics best for the conditions," Pirates-Old Boys coach Regan Johns said.

The effective attacking mode of their loose forwards around the fringes was the catalyst for Blues downing visitors Wrights Bush 20-5.

"Blues also used the wind better than us," Wrights Bush coach Brendan Hamilton conceded.

Successful coach Shannon Townson said he was satisfied with the win, considering the recent high injury rate.

"It was a day for the forwards. Our pack welded well, with flanker Mark Sheehan outstanding."

Former wing Vaughan Marshall stood out for Wrights Bush on the open flank, scoring his team's only try.

Woodlands wanted to farewell valued pivot Mark Barclay, who is moving to Wanaka on a winning note and succeeded by downing competitive visitors Balfour-Lumsden 27-10 in a mudbath. Manager Shane Steel said Barclay would be missed.

Manager John Gilkison said Balfour-Lumsden pleased him with Matt Waite and Bevan Roy scoring deserved tries. Prop Kirk Harland figured prominently.

Riverton 5 (Phillip Bevan try), Marist 0. HT: 5-0 Albion-Excelsior 17 (Shannon Robinson, Damon Topi, Cody Sayer tries; Cory Maniopoto con), Waiau Star 16 (Michael McCulloch try; Simon Van Dam con, 3 pen). HT: 12-16 Collegiate 24 (Wiremu Fletcher, Col Roughan, Duanne Harper, Jo Koroiadi tries; Jason McMath 2 con), Central Pirates/Star 7 (Paul Roberts try; Daniel Perry con). HT: 14-7. Woodlands 27 (Andy Mainland 2, Brennan Melvin, Tyler Botting, Spadie Gage tries; Botting con), Balfour-Lumsden 10 (Matt Waite, Bevan Roy tries) HT: 17-10 Blues 20 (Mark Sheehan, Will Payne, Turi Dallas tries; Jack Egerton con, pen), Wrights Bush 5 (Vaughan Marshall try). HT: 17-0 Midlands 17 (Cam Dawson 2, Jake Jenson tries; Dale Gilbert con), Pirates-Old Boys 5 (Rory Jarman try). HT: 12-5 

The Southland Times