Pirates-Old Boys live to fight another battle
Pirates-Old Boys' season stood at the edge of a cliff on Saturday afternoon.
The scenario was relatively simple, drop their Southland premier club rugby round 11 game to the Eastern-Northern Barbarians and watch their season plummet. But win and, for another week at least, that Galbraith Shield hope still carries a heartbeat.
Win they did as the plucky Surrey Park-based club turned around a horror run of tight losses, where they have dropped five games this season by less than five points, to beat the Barbarians 11-3 on their own turf at the Gore Showgrounds.
Pirates-Old Boys muscled up upfront and dominated the set piece and tight exchanges.
It was Northland-bound hooker David Hall who opposition coach Brenton Taylor felt played the pivotal role as Hall's experience in difficult conditions shone through.
His lineout throwing was pinpoint, he was effective at scrumtime and, as usual, frequently got his hands on the ball on attack.
Thanks to two penalties by Bradley Campbell, Pirates-Old Boys held a 6-3 lead at the break, but with the wind favouring the Barbarians in the second half most were expecting a much better showing from the combined country team late in the game.
It didn't happen as Pirates-Old Boys forwards continued to deliver and the Barbarians were guilty of a lot of aimless kicking.
Taylor dished out praise to the opposition in their victory, although he did feel his team had delivered their worst performance to date in their debut season.
Midway through the second half young Pirates-Old Boys fullback Eroni Sotutu delivered what ultimately was the killer blow when he finished a well-worked backline move that would have impressed in dry weather conditions, let alone the greasy conditions players had to contend with on Saturday.
As well as Hall's contribution lock Jimmy Affleck was also a key figure in the win and loose forward Jade Key provided an impact from the bench.
The task remains the same for Pirates-Old Boys as they eye their final two games during the next fortnight before a bye in the final week of the competition.
They now need to beat both Midlands and Marist to push for a semifinal spot.
Blues leapfrogged the Eastern-Northern Barbarians into second spot on competition standings when they edged out Star, 14-11, at the Les George Oval on Saturday.
Star halfback Tayler Adams realised first hand the highs and lows of sport in a matter of seven days.
The week before, the 18-year-old from Auckland had delivered a faultless goalkicking performance, kicking seven from seven in the 29-29 draw with Woodlands.
On Saturday, however, with just a minute to play against Blues, Adams lined up a penalty very handy to the posts.
Down 14-11 it would have given Star their second draw in as many weeks but, much to the delight of the Blues supporters, he pushed it wide and Star had to settle for the one bonus point for being within seven points.
Blues raced out to a 8-0 lead in this game when first Josh Hall landed a penalty in the sixth minute and then Waka Parkinson dotted down after fielding a cross kick from Hall and bumping off his opposite Mana Harrison to pave a clear path to the line.
Hall pushed it out to 11-0 in the 17th minute with another penalty and could have extended it to 14-0 in the 25th minute but he missed a handy attempt.
After 34 minutes Star finally got some reward for their attacking ventures into Blues territory when they opted to go for a lineout close to the Blues' line from a penalty, instead of having a crack at three points.
They hit Andrew McHugh at the back of the lineout and Star built a maul before blindside Danny Dowling peeled off to score.
Four minutes into the second half, Hall landed another penalty, which was his team's lot as far as scoring went in this game.
From there, Star mounted plenty of waves of attack the way of the Blues' line but came up with only three points in the second half themselves.
The front row of Michael Peterson, Bull Maihatia and Daniel Roberts were all strong, particularly when it came to the scrum, where they had a clear dominance over Star.
For Star, Cardiff Vaega, Brayden Mitchell and Mark McHugh ran strongly with the ball, while flanker Billy Soper again impressed.
Midlands banked an all-important win over Marist on Saturday and picked up a rare four-try bonus point along the way. Midlands have struggled to kick-start their season in the first 10 rounds but against Marist showed why they still remain title contenders.
They led 16-10 at halftime before pushing out to the encouraging 28-10 win.
Up front, Dayna Cunningham and Damien Pulley were probably Midlands' best, while the usual strike weapons in the backline – Scott Cowan, Ben Johnson, Tim Cornforth and Mark Wells – all had good games.
Midlands coach Mike Cunningham said he was pleased with the way his team responded after some disappointing recent performances.
Midlands' next game against Pirates-Old Boys is a must-win, with the loser likely to drop out of the running.
- © Fairfax NZ News