Marist aiming to take shield from Woodlands
CLUB RUGBY: Premier divisionLOGAN SAVORY
Marist will attempt to win the Galbraith Shield for the first time since 2001 when they take on Woodlands in the 2014 Southland premier club rugby decider at Rugby Park on Saturday.
Marist is one of Southland's more popular and well-supported rugby clubs but the results on the field in recent years hadn't been all that startling.
Before this year, their last appearance in the playoffs was in 2009, their last trip to a final was in 2004 and their last title was in 2001.
However, this season, the green-and-blacks have turned a corner, firstly making the playoffs, then progressing to their first final since 2004, and for their supporters, they will hope it will finish with their hands on the prized shield.
Marist were impressive in their step toward the final when they brushed off the challenge of Star in the first two of the semifinals at the Les George Oval on Saturday.
Marist raced out to a 14-0 lead inside the first quarter to assert their dominance on the game and ultimately set up the victory.
Star did claw their way back with a couple of Tayler Adams penalties to make it 14-6 but Marist scored again before halftime to take a 21-6 lead into the break.
Adams kicked his third penalty to make it 21-9 but when Marist scored their third try of the afternoon to push the score out to 28-9, that ultimately was the killer blow to Star's hopes.
Star did score a consolation try late in the game to make it 28-14 but the early semifinal was all about Marist.
While Marist's visits to this stage of the season have been rare in recent times, they will take on a team in this Saturday's final that is more than familiar with finals footy.
Saturday will be Woodlands' fifth straight appearance in the Galbraith Shield final and they will be looking to make it three titles in a row.
The defending champions progressed to the 2014 decider with an entertaining 37-32 victory over Pirates-Old Boys.Woodlands first five-eighth Richard Apanui and Pirates-Old Boys midfielder Craig Smith traded penalties early in the game, before Woodlands flanker Alex Taylor scored a try and Woodlands held a 13-12 lead at halftime.
With a strong start to the second half, Woodlands pushed out to a 30-15 lead midway through the first half.
Pirates-Old Boys responded with a try to bring it back to 30-20 but, with two further tries, Woodlands saw them stretched out to a 37-20 lead.
The plucky Pirates-Old Boys team did score the final two tries of the game to bring it back to 37-32 but Woodlands had already done enough.
The last time Marist and Woodlands clashed in a Galbraith Shield final was in the 2004 match, which was the last time Marist in fact played in a final.
Marist will be hoping for a better performance 10 years on, with Woodlands winning that 2004 clash 40-8.
Woodlands are searching for the club's eighth Galbraith Shield title, with wins in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Marist, however, will be looking for Galbraith Shield title No 6 after wins in 1940, 1948, 1957, 1979 and 2001.
Saturday's losses mean Star and Pirates-Old Boys join the Eastern-Northern Barbarians, Blues and Midlands who have already exited the competition.
Star's best rugby came in the first round when they went through the first half of the season unbeaten despite many predicting they could struggle this season.
However, injuries and some patchy form hindered them when the crunch stage of the season arrived.
For Pirates-Old Boys it was an up-and-down season but there were more positives than negatives.
It is a club that continues to be a good breeding ground for younger players, under the tutelage of Matt Saunders, and some are likely to go on to higher honours.
Pirates-Old Boys did miss prop JP Koen in the later stages of the season when he was whisked into the Highlanders' Super Rugby setup.
While Woodlands and Marist will square off in the club final at Rugby Park on Saturday, the best of the rest in Southland will head to Dunedin to play for the Spartans team in a game against Otago side the Sassenachs.
The game will give potential Stags squad members their chance to impress.
- The Southland Times