Goalkickers make difference in wins
A couple of goal-kicking master-classes led Marist and Woodlands to wins in Southland's premier club rugby competition on Saturday.
With this year's competition the tightest seen in decades, the need for good goal-kickers has become increasingly important and on Saturday both Marist and Woodlands had those players to call on.
In the top-of-the-table clash between Woodlands and the Eastern-Northern Barbarians played at Woodlands, it was Woodlands pivot Ricky Bakker who proved the difference.
Bakker kicked five penalties and a conversion in his six-from-six perfect goal-kicking display.
Woodlands got out to a 13-9 lead thanks to a Ryan Koning try and two penalties and a conversion from Bakker.
However, the visiting Eastern-Northern team were not about to roll over, and struck back in the second half with a try to Robert Blatch and a penalty to grab a 19-13 buffer at one stage.
But this was Bakker's day as he kept slotting the ball through the uprights, landing a further three second-half penalties in a man-of-the-match performance in the tense 22-19 win.
The victory ensured Woodlands became the first team to defend the AWS Legal-sponsored Challenge Cup, which has been introduced to the premier club competition this season.
Despite the loss, the combined country outfit showed enough to be happy, with Welsh import Luke Ford in the midfield proving a real handful and looking a handy asset.
Prop Hamish Blakely also had a very strong game.
The win also ensured the 2011 beaten finalists remained at the top of the points table after five rounds and hold a four-point lead.
Marist first five-eighth Scott Eade was just as influential with his boot in his team's dramatic 36-35 win over Pirates-Old Boys at Surrey Park in Invercargill on Saturday. He kicked a match-winning penalty from close to 40m out and 10m to 15m in from touch to snatch the 36-35 win, bringing much delight to the Marist supporters who were on hand for the thriller. But he also highlighted to them just what they would miss when he headed away with the New Zealand under-20 team.
The young Marist lineup showed plenty of enthusiasm as they made all the early play in this game. They raced out to a 10-nil lead and at halftime were up 21-14.
When centre Keanu Kahukura scored the second of his two tries, and Marist pushed out to a 33-21 lead in the second half, the curtain was being lowered on the home team's hopes.
But while Pirates-Old Boys can leak points what they can also do is score plenty and they showcased this mounting an impressive comeback scoring two tries and grabbing a 35-33 lead late in the game.
The momentum had shifted the way of Pirates-Old Boys and the young Marist team looked set to be dealt a cruel blow after impressing for most of the game.
That, though, was until Eade calmly stepped up to win his team the game.
There was plenty to like about what the Mark Tinnock-coached Marist team produced, with several players impressing, most notably second five-eighth Matt Gandy, who continued to run strongly with ball in hand.
Openside flanker Tangoroa Walker got through a lot of work and got involved with ball in hand often.
In a week when plenty had been talked about David Hall, with his career with the Stags coming to an end, the Hurricanes squad member delivered an outstanding display for his Pirates-Old Boys team, despite the loss.
Playing at No 8, Hall was inspirational running strongly with the ball and keeping it alive with some good offloading skills.
Pirates-Old Boys did miss the services of hooker Talemaitoga Tuapati and halfback Nemia Kenatale, who were away on international duties with Fiji.
Star dug deep on Saturday to produce a much-needed and confidence-boosting win over Midlands.
The defending champions have struggled for luck in the early rounds of the competition, with injury and tight games going against them.
But on Saturday, at home in front of their own supporters, the blue-and-white brigade snatched a tight win over Midlands.
The home side had raced out to a 13-nil lead, thanks to a try to Junior Ngaluafe and a conversion and two penalties to Taylor Adams.
However, Midlands mounted a late comeback to bridge the gap to 13-12 but could not quite overhaul Star as the blue-and-whites held on for a win.
Ben Johnson had the opportunity to put his team into the lead late in the game with the conversion attempt but pushed it wide.
For Star, looseforwards Mark McHugh and Billy Soper led their team forward, while the midfield combination of Cardiff Veaga and Alesana Muliaina asked plenty of questions of the Midlands defence.
Marist 36 (K Kahukura 2, T Walker, C Chisholm tries; 2 con, 4 pen), Pirates-Old Boys 35 (L Murch, E Sotutu, A Diack, N Ah Kuoi, B Milne tries; E O'Donnell 5 con). Star 13 (J Ngaluafe try; T Adams con, 2 pen), Midlands 12 (T Lumelume, S Cowan tries; B Johnson con). Woodlands 22 (R Koning try; R Bakker con, 5 pen ), Eastern-Northern Barbarians 19 (R Blatch try; R Truelove con; Truelove 3, L Ford pen)
The Southland Times