Win helps Blues break drought
New Blues coach Rodger Dawson registered his first win with the south Invercargill club but he was more delighted for his team's senior players than himself when reflecting on the result.
Leading into Saturday's showdown with Midlands the proud Blues club, which has more Galbraith Shield titles than any other club, had to cast their mind back to July 21, 2012, to recall the club's previous victory in Southland's premier club competition.
They went through the entire 2013 season without a win but Dawson said "the monkey off the back", following the 24-21 win over Midlands on Saturday.
They did it the hard way, though, as Midlands raced out to a 21-7 win before Blues scored 17 unanswered second-half points for the win.
"It's good for the boys. They hadn't had a win since 2012 so it's good to get the monkey off the back for the senior players," he said.
"I'm not terribly happy with the way we played but, bugger it, we'll take the win."
The job was made that bit tougher for Blues when key players Daniel Townson and Michael Stewart were late withdrawals.
Dawson paid tribute to young Midlands No 8 Jordan Stewart, who he said was "a menace" throughout the game.
For Blues, Lee Murray in the loose was one of their standouts in the breakthrough win.
Woodlands coach Damien Pine was also pleased to have registered his first win of the season but confessed opponents Eastern- Northern Barbarians were probably more deserving of a win.
Woodlands won 15-13 as the Barbarians' Scottish first five- eighth Neil Warnock narrowly missed two late penalties that would have won it.
"I think, to be honest, the Barbarians were very unlucky not to win the game," he said.
Pine said they have had some key personnel changes in the off- season and it was taking time for the players to gel as a team.
One player who was at his usual best was veteran hooker Jason Rutledge, who was a standout in the win.
"I thought Cabbage [Rutledge] was really strong. He looks like he's getting back to where he was pre-injury. He's a real menace around that breakdown area."
For the Barbarians, tight-head prop Morgan Mitchell once again impressed and was a key figure in helping the country club gain the upper hand at scrum time.
Marist showed plenty of character to grab a win over Pirates-Old Boys in yet another tight encounter on Saturday.
Playing at Surrey Park in greasy conditions as light rain fell Marist got out to a 9-0 lead thanks to the boot of first five-eighth Scott Eade.
Eade kicked two penalties and then slotted a drop goal, which was followed by a try to wing Will Murray on the back of some slick hands from Josh Hall to make it 14-0.
Pirates-Old Boys hooker Craig Stanway scored before halftime to make it 14-7 and also threw plenty at Marist in the second half only for Marist to dig in and eventually claim the honours 17-12.
Pirates-Old Boys paid credit to Marist's efforts.
"We didn't play well and didn't execute well enough but, to be fair to Marist, they brought a lot of intensity.
"Maybe in the last couple of years they may have lost that sort of game but they dug in there at the end pretty good, because we had them under the pump for most of the second half."
In the cross-over game on Saturday, division one team Wyndham gave premier club Star a fright, with the more fancied Star team grabbing a narrow win, 26-22.
Wyndham scored the first try of the match to lead 5-3 at one stage and also had the final say in the match, scoring the last try.
Star coach Craig Pullar said Wyndham certainly fronted and took it to a Star team that was missing eight frontline players through injury or unavailabilty.
"We had guys injured and guys away because we knew the game wasn't quite as important, so a few guys took the week off but, to [Wyndham's] credit, they were a pretty determined and gutsy team," Pullar said.
One of the Star players missing was No 8 Mark McHugh, who is out for the season with a knee injury, and Pullar said they got a wake-up call as to what the season could be like without him.
"It proved our organisational skills are going to have to be worked on big-time to cover that void.
"He's good at organising people where they need to be and, if people need a bit of a tune-up, he's not afraid to do it."
Blues 24 (Waka Parkinson, Lee Murray, Nathan Anderson tries; Nicky Herbert 3 con, pen), Midlands 21.
Marist 17 (Will Murray try; Scott Eade 3 pen, dg), Pirates- Old Boys 12 (Craig Stanway, Jimmy Affleck; Oscar Jenkins con).
Woodlands 15 (Jason Rutledge 2 tries; Jamie Verran pen, con), Eastern-Northern Barbarians 13 (Ryan Evans try; Neil Warnock 2 pen, con).
The Southland Times