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A last-gasp penalty goal by Southland Boys’ fullback Ben Pope last Saturday afternoon ended Otago Boys’ chances of a place in the 2017 Top Four 1st XV series.
Southland Boys’ took the game 29-27.
After the teams were locked at 12-all at halftime in the Highlanders’ region final at Les George Oval in Invercargill, Otago Boys’ had roared out to a 27-12 lead before a stirring fightback from the home team. Pope’s successful kick from in front on the final whistle meant a second successive exit at the regional stage for Otago Boys’.
Having dominated the opening 15 minutes of the second half, the loss of skipper – centre Midge van Boxtel – to an ankle injury was a turning point for Otago Boys’. Not only were gaps in the midfield exposed by the home side, but van Boxtel’s leadership was also sorely missed. While there was some conjecture about the validity of the final penalty and the accuracy of the referee’s watch, the consensus is Southland Boys’ stirring comeback was justifiably rewarded.
Otago Boys’ will now be forced to watch from the sidelines as Southland Boys’ host Christchurch Boys’ in the South Island final this weekend, the winner of that game progressing to the Barbarians Top Four tournament in Palmerston North. Christchurch Boys’ beat Timaru Boys’ 18-10 in the Crusaders’ region final.
Otago Boys’ coach Ryan Martin is already planning his 2018 campaign with around a dozen of this year’s squad set to return.
Southland Boys’29, Otago Boys’ 27 (Sam Jones, Abraham Pole, Joseph Aldrich Williams, Taine Te Whata tries: Burns Mills 2 conv, 1 pen).
“Armstrong Prestige Land Rover has thoroughly enjoyed the association with the OBHS 1st XV and OHHS Rugby Club this season. The games became a highlight for our team as we followed the progress through the weeks. The Highlanders’ region final in Invercargill was electric with the passion and commitment of the whole team resulting in a spirited clash. To say we were devastated at the outcome is an understatement. The OBHS team of players and coaching staff are very professional and totally dedicated to the game. We feel privileged to have been the Platinum Sponsor and will reflect on our journey on a positive note”. Muir Gold, Dealer Principal of Armstrong Prestige Dunedin.