Southbridge win back-to-back finals
Southbridge claimed back-to-back senior country combined rugby titles today with a 23-15 win over Ellesmere neighbours Lincoln.
12 months after defying Lincoln of back-to-back titles, Southbridge ensured the division one silverware remained in their cabinet for another year with a determined victory.
The match, which was initially set down for last week but deferred due to the weather, promised plenty of action, but was for the most a messy affair in which Southbridge were able to assert some strong dominance over their opponents.
After trading blows early in the match it was Southbridge who opened the scoring through their barnstorming second five eighth Peni Manumanuniliwa after he latched onto a pass from Josh Soper to score in the corner.
It turned out to be the start of a brilliant game from the Fijian who constantly caused concern for the Lincoln defence with his strong ball carrying ability.
Despite their early dominance, Southbridge were unable to break away from the grasp of Lincoln whose defensive patterns proved to be very strong and hard to penetrate.
With a penalty from the boot of Dayle Eathorne gifting them three points, Lincoln would have felt confident they could avenge last year's loss when the two teams swapped ends after 40 minutes down 5-3.
Southbridge had other ideas.
They opened the scoring with a penalty to captain Shannon Donald shortly after the break before following it up with a well worked try to Willie McGoon who brushed off some would-be defenders on his way to scoring in the corner.
Donald added the extras from the side line and the Lincoln supporters started to shuffle in their seats.
A second try to Manumanuniliwa looked to put the nail in the coffin for Lincoln, but the red and blacks forged an impressive comeback, which lead to a penalty try.
Donald answered straight back with another penalty to stretch the lead to 13 with just under 10 minutes to play and the creative flair and desire that had been lacking from the Lincoln side sparked into life.
They scored through replacement Jason Lamborne with just minutes to play but were unable to convert the try before Southbridge wound out the game to claim the win.
Donald, who led his side with precision from the No.10 position, said backing up and winning was an impressive effort after last year.
"We have had a monkey on our back all year,'' he said.
"So to be able to come out and win again is really special and I'm so proud of the guys.''
The two sides will meet again in the coming weeks with the three unions; Mid and North Canterbury and Ellesmere splitting into their own competitions.
Both sides fought out the final of the Ellesmere competition last year with Lincoln getting one back on Southbridge.
Something Donald, and his men, are pretty keen to set straight this year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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