Barbarians go down in 'intense game'
Eastern-Northern Barbarians coach Brenton Taylor could not bring himself to get too upset about his team's 22-7 loss to Woodlands in Southland's premier club rugby competition on Saturday.
Taylor described the game as one of the best he has seen at club level and couldn't fault his players' effort and general overall performance, despite the loss putting his team on the back foot in the race to the playoffs.
"It was one of the most intense games I've seen. I'm real proud of the guys, It's probably one of the best performances we've put in over the three years," Taylor said.
"They were a very good side, probably one of the best teams I've seen. They are going to be very tough to beat. Our guys played their hearts out; they all played well."
Woodlands opened the scoring through a try to looseforward Alex Taylor, which was converted by first five-eighth Richard Apanui, who was playing his first game in Southland rugby since 2005.
The Barbarians responded in front of a healthy home crowd at Gore through their Welsh centre Ryan Evans and, with the Neil Warnock conversion, the scores were locked up at 7-7 at the halftime break.
Woodlands outscored the Barbarians 15-0 in the second half, with wingers Warrick Lynn and Gabriel Pickering scoring tries.
Woodlands coach Damien Pine agreed with Taylor's assessment of the standard of the game and felt the 22-7 scoreline was flattering to his team.
Along with the timely return of Apanui to the Woodlands stocks, they were also able to call on Chiefs prop Jamie Mackintosh, who was playing his 50th game for the Southland club.
It provided young Barbarians prop Morgan Mitchell an ideal test, one Pine thought he measured up to.
"Our scrum was good; it was great to have Whopper back, although I thought Morgan Mitchell hung in there. And the Southland selectors were there, so it will be interesting to see what they thought."
The intense nature of the game overflowed late in the fixture when a scrap started, involving most players from both teams.
New Stags recruit Lima Sopoaga was in attendance on Saturday, supporting his new club the Barbarians in a water boy role.
Taylor hoped that next week against Star Sopoaga might spend some time on the field for the Barbarians.
"He's nice guy; he fitted in very well. It was like he'd been there for the whole season."
Despite Taylor liking a lot from his team's showing on Saturday, the reality is they now find themselves in the position of having to win probably their remaining four premier games to be a 2014 semifinals.
Their loss on Saturday went with Pirates-Old Boys' 23-10 victory over Marist, opening a nine- point gap between fourth placed Pirates-Old Boys and the Barbarians.
Pirates-Old Boys coach Matt Saunders also suggested his team's showdown with Marist was one of the better club games he had seen, making for a big round in Southland's premier competition on Saturday.
The 23-10 scoreline also did reflect just how close the game was, Saunders added.
It was just 3-0 at halftime and, with only five minutes to play, Marist were down 13-10 and looking likely to pull off a win.
However, Pirates-Old Boys scored two late tries - the last on the back of a Jaye Thompson intercept, which led to a try to Nick Hayes.
Centre Bryan Milne was outstanding in Pirates-Old Boys' win while, for Marist, hooker Dillon Halaholo was impressive, as was fullback Curtis Tarrant, who had a big work rate.
Marist had to deal with some injury problems up front, which led to having to go to golden oldies scrums.
Blues coach Rodger Dawson was delighted with his team's 30-7 win over Midlands on Saturday and hopes it would provide his team with the belief they need heading into their final three games.
It has been another tough season for the south Invercargill club this year, with Blues winning just one game heading into a grudge match against Midlands on Saturday.
Midlands have partnered Blues at the bottom end of the table over the past two seasons.
Most were predicting a tight tussle but Blues team won with relative ease.
They raced out to a 25-0 lead in the first half and kept the pressure on to wrap up the bonus-0point win 30-7.
Midlands coach Paul Henderson said his team was flat in the first half and gave up too much ground.
He was pleased with they way the players responded to the messages at halftime, winning the second half 7-5.
"Most of them played Sun-Union footy - two games last weekend - and at training I felt they were tired, and they were tired in the first half that is for sure. But take nothing away from Blues, they played well," Henderson said.
Blues No 8 Bill Fukofuka had a strong game as did the halfback- first five-eighth combination of Sam Muir and Connor Bissett.
As usual, looseforwards Tim Boys and Brenton Howden were two of Midlands' best on Saturday.
Woodlands 22 (Alex Taylor, Warrick Lynn, Gabriel Pickering tries; Richard Apanui pen, 2 con), Eastern-Northern Barbarians 7 (Ryan Evans try; Neil Warnock con).
Pirates-Old Boys 23 (Rocky Pettigrew, Nick Hayes, Campbell Wood tries; Oscar Jenkins con, 2 pen), Marist 10 (Keanu Kahukura try; Scott Eade con, pen).
Blues 30 (Lee Murray, Bill Fukofuka, Nathan Anderson, Waka Parkinson, Sam Muir tries; Connor Bissett con, pen), Midlands 7 (Quinn Stewart try; Blake Fairburn con).
- The Southland Times