Form side Girls' High triumphant in decider
What a finish. Southland Girls' High survived a massive final raid from South Otago High, with two players in the sinbin, to hold on for a tense 15-10 win in last week's Southland-wide First XV schoolgirls decider and end the Balclutha school's stranglehold on the title.
South Otago High have been a powerhouse in the deep south in recent times, winning the last three Southland schoolgirl championships, but their bid for a fourth consecutive title was cut short by Southland Girls', the form side in this year's competition.
Southland Girls' failed to lose a game during 2011 and destroyed South Otago by a whopping 67-nil scoreline when the teams met earlier in the year; but with so much on the line, one always felt that last week's final was going to be a much closer encounter.
That is exactly how things panned out, with South Otago getting across for the opening try of the game through their Otago women's NPC midfielder Greer Muir. Southland Girls' then settled into their work and hit back with tries to lock Laura Buckingham and fullback Jacqui Chamberlain to take a 10-5 advantage into halftime.
South Otago replied with a try early into the second stanza to level the scores up before Southland Girls' again edged their noses in front with a try to speedy winger Rachel Christie.
Christie's try proved to be the game-winner and it rounded off a memorable week for the sporty youngster, who netted a hat-trick of goals for the Southland Girls' First X1 football team in their Southland schools final win over Wakatipu High.
The final 10 minutes of the game could not have been scripted any better, with Southland Girls' reduced to 13 players with two players sent to the sinbin for infringing. Down by five points, South Otago threw everything in the closing stages of the game and were camped in the Southland Girls' 22 over the last five minutes of the game.
They repeatedly hammered away at the Southland Girls' tryline and were held up over the line four times, but Southland Girls, who were desperate to win their first Southland schoolgirls title since 2006, defended like their lives depended on it to keep South Otago at bay and capture the silverware.
Southland Girls' High coach Nathan Muir said it was a excellent game, fitting of a final, and was delighted his team were able to absorb the pressure and hold on for the win.
"It's probably one of the most competitive girls' game I've ever seen. It was full on," Muir said.
"South Otago has been the benchmark the last three years and we've been one of the form teams too. We were desperate to get the trophy back. It's been a while [since we had it]."
Muir said there were jubilant scenes at fulltime and he admitted to feeling a sense of relief after nearly chewing off his fingernails in the final stages of the game.
"I was pretty worried for a while during the game," Muir laughed. "I knew that game [during the season] was a bit of an anomaly."
Southland Girls' were deserved winners of this year's title after winning all of their round-robin and triangular games during the season and scoring more than 700 points, while conceding under 50.
Muir said there had been some outstanding performers during the year, with Kate Day the architect of the backline at first five and strong midfielders Michelle Neho and Victoria Safole a nightmare for opposition defences all year.
In the forward pack, openside flanker Molly Lyders had been one of the competition's most dominant players, while No 8 Georgia Mason and hardworking lock Buckingham had also impressed.
The Southland Times