Star seems a shield shoo-in

Blues player  Tupou Kaufononga slips a tackle during a Southland premier grade match against...
Blues player Tupou Kaufononga slips a tackle during a Southland premier grade match against Marist earlier this month. PHOTO: DEBBIE FAHEY
With five rounds remaining in the Southland premier club competition, Star is favoured to win the Galbraith Shield after putting on over 50 points against both of last year’s finalists, Pirates Old Boys Hawks and the Barbarians, in the last two weeks.

Tomorrow, Star will play Woodlands on the sand-based ground at Les George Oval.

Star’s captain, Jordan Stewart, and Semesi Taeiloa are in rampaging form in the loose forwards, while Woodlands youngsters Justin Shaw and Josh Evans will be glad to have Southland’s reigning player of the year Blair Ryall back with them in their loose forwards.

Star’s set piece has also been strong this year. Loosehead prop Jack Sexton has been a key acquisition for his team, while Woodlands have the incumbent Stags loosehead prop Joe Walsh in their pack.

Stags lock Josh Bekhuis has played good minutes for Star in recent weeks. He will get a good look at Woodlands lock Alex Yallop who has aspirations to join Josh in the Stags this year.

Both sides have midfielders who are new to the province this year and aiming to play at the next level: Kynan Stowers-Smith for Woodlands and Johnny Vaili for Star.

Tomorrow will also be a good test for Woodlands first five-eighth Corey McKay. Woodlands wing Sione Baker is in fine form, as is Star’s outside backs Cole Spinks and Hughan Sharp.

The Hawks were rattled by a handful of injuries to key players last week. Kaea Nikora-Balloch’s quad injury is likely to sideline him for the remainder of the club campaign.

Coach Dayna Cunningham said the injuries provided a good challenge for the rest of the group but they did not physically front up and take control of the roles against Star.

The Hawks will be determined not to be physically dominated again this Saturday when they host Marist.

Hawks first five Greg Dyer’s communication and organisational skills are unmatched in this grade. He is expected to orchestrate a comfortable win.

Marist has their own injury problems at the moment and less depth at their club to cover for them.

The Eastern Northern Barbarians will host the struggling Blues team in Gore. The Barbarians pack will provide quality front-foot ball for first five Ben McCarthy and second five Angus Simmers to show their talents.

Invercargill Blues are still aiming for their first win of the season. All Black legend Wayne "Buck" Shelford promises to be an entertaining guest speaker when the Blues club celebrates their 150th jubilee during the three days over King’s Birthday weekend at the end of this month.

 - By John Langford