Woodlands lift shield in full-force assault
Woodlands' record in Southland's premier club rugby competition must be respected.
On Saturday the small rural town north of Invercargill simply put the icing on their cake as far as the status of powerhouse of Southland club rugby in modern times.
Up until 1996, Woodlands had not won a Galbraith Shield title at all, but on Saturday they etched their name on the trophy for the sixth time through their 37-17 win over Blues at Rugby Park.
The class of 2012 added to Woodlands' previous Galbraith Shield wins in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2010.
On Saturday, they grabbed hold of the tag of Southland club rugby heavyweights by putting Blues to the sword in convincing style.
Many had predicted a Woodlands win but the ease and the margin with which it was achieved were cause for surprise.
You have to trawl through the history books and get back to 2004 to find the last final that was decided by more than six points.
However, Woodlands in this year's decider had both hands on the shield just 37 minutes into the game when they led 22-nil.
Woodlands had racked up three tries in the space of 16 minutes in the first half as Blues looked shell-shocked and with few answers to the wave after wave of attack.
Blues just fell off too many tackles to be any chance of winning a final.
Five minutes into the second half, Woodlands prop Jamie Mackintosh and wing Willie Umu both crossed for their second tries of the day and the champagne corks were already starting to pop as Woodlands had stretched out to a 34-nil lead with just 45 minutes gone in the game.
Blues only had pride left to play for as their hopes of the club's 32nd Galbraith Shield title slipped away.
To their credit, they dug in brought some respectability back into the scoreline by scoring the final three tries of the match.
Woodlands took the opportunity to clear the bench in the second half, taking off some of their frontline players and giving everyone a decent taste of the occasion.
For Woodlands captain Alex Ryan to lift the shield after being on the wrong side of a nailbiter in the last year's final, it was a sweet experience on Saturday.
The Stags lock was confident throughout the season that his team had the goods to wipe away the bad memories last year and finish off with the title this year.
"I knew after the first round we had a great team, but we hit a few speed wobbles in that second round.
"We knew when we came together and stopped playing as individuals it would come together for us in the end. And we showed that last week and this week as well," Ryan said soon after the win.
He paid tribute to the positive injection that Highlanders frontrowers Jason Rutledge and Jamie Mackintosh had made to the team in both the semifinal and final of the competition.
"They're instrumental in this, just their leadership and skill around the field. Everyone looks up to them around the field, it helps me as captain."
Woodlands have now been handed the baton to try to break a curse that stretches back 18 years.
No club has gone back-to-back by winning the Galbraith Shield in successive years since Blues ended an eight-year stretch with the shield in 1995.
GALBRAITH SHIELD FINAL
Woodlands 37 (Dan Cavanagh, Willie Umu 2, Jamie Mackintosh 2 tries; Marty McKenzie 3 con, 2 pen), Blues 17 (Mike Wilkins, Filimoni Tagicakibau, Daniel Townson tries; Josh Hall con). Halftime; 22-nil.
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