Woodlands crush Marist for third straight title
Woodlands are becoming a Southland club rugby dynasty.
On Saturday, the small rural Southland club won its third Galbraith Shield title in a row. Woodlands also extended their impressive record to five titles in the past seven seasons.
The latest victory was produced with plenty of conviction, crushing Marist 32-3 in the decider at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Saturday.
Woodlands coach Damien Pine said the most pleasing aspect was the performance they produced in the biggest game of the season.
"We wanted a performance that we were really happy with; that was a big focus for us during the week. I thought the boys were really clinical about what they did," he said.
"You doubt yourself sometimes when you set a game plan. Our game plan was to maul them and to have a power play against them and that paid dividends, so it was nice in that respect."
Pine was thrown a curveball minutes before kickoff when fullback Jamie Verran pulled out.
"He had been a bit sick all week and he came up to me after the end of the warm-up and said he couldn't play and I was like, ‘oh my god', I thought it was going to be the worst day of my life. He was crucial to us because we thought they would play a territory game and we would have him to be able to counter-attack. It puts a bit of a spanner in the works when he comes to you a couple of minutes before and says he can't play."
Even that couldn't put Woodlands off, though, as they rushed out to a 24-3 halftime lead on the back of a mountain of possession and territory.
Pine was well aware Woodlands had their critics but he hopes people can start to acknowledge what they have achieved during the past decade.
"New Zealand can have that tall poppy syndrome. I remember at the end of last year everyone was saying we get all the best players, but last year Pirates-Old Boys had the most Stags.
"We've got guys who have been together now for a long time. I think there is probably 13 or 14 players that have got their blazers [for 50 games]. Your Michael Gellatelys, Andrew Mackintoshess, Gabriel Pickerings - all those guys that are not Stags, but that core of players have been here basically since I've been involved, that's the difference.
"We talked about it before the final. We knew that was what was going to get us through because experienced guys understand finals football, and they understand pressure. It's great to have guys like Jamie [Mackintosh] come back into the mix but it's the others that are the core of the team and get it done."
Pine was not sure whether he would be back at the helm of Woodlands next year to push for a fourth straight title.
He said he would give himself some time to decide in the off-season and conceded he was disappointed he hadn't got the opportunity to step up at representative level.
"It has been a pretty rough year for me coaching-wise, in terms of getting overlooked for various Southland roles, including the under-19 team, so I need to look at it and think about what I'm going to do."
THE KEY MOMENTS
5min: Marist were penalised for being offside at a ruck. Woodlands first five-eighth Richard Apanui stepped up to kick the penalty, which was right in front.
10min: Woodlands were penalised for coming into the side of a ruck but Marist first five-eighth Scott Eade missed the kick 15m in from touch and 25m out.
20min: Woodlands flanker Alex Taylor scores among a strong rolling maul. Apanui converts to push the score out to 10-nil.
23min: Eade kicks a penalty from handy range to make it 10-3.
26min: Apanui has the chance to respond soon after with a penalty of his own but pushes an attempt from close to the touchline wide.
29min: Woodlands produced another strong rolling maul before halfback Sonny Rangitoheriri spotted an opening to scoot from the back of the maul and score. Apanui kicked the conversion to take it to 17-3.
36min: Lock Jack Falloon got into the scoring action for Woodlands and at 24-3 up it was one-way traffic.
50min: Woodlands flanker Shannan Kapene scored Woodlands' fourth try of the afternoon to take it to 29-3.
71min: Apanui had the chance to extend the lead further with another penalty but missed.
77min: Apanui got another chance and this time made no mistake to take his tally to 12 points for the day.
80min: Referee Kirk Rae called fulltime and the party started for Woodlands, who have now won three straight Galbraith Shield titles.
The Southland Times