Two close results in opening round

University halfback Kieran McClea looks for a gap in his side’s match against Taieri at Logan...
University halfback Kieran McClea looks for a gap in his side’s match against Taieri at Logan Park yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
Harbour 26 Southern 22

Harbour edged Southern 26-22 in a cracking season-opener at Watson Park on Saturday.

But the Magpies got in the best one-liner you will hear in club rugby this year.

When the ball had splashed down in Otago Harbour for the third or fourth time, someone issued the instruction not to kick it in the water "because we are running out of balls".

"That’s because you’ve spent all your money on your players," came the response from a sharp-witted Southern front-rower.

Too funny not to share.

But that Southern front-rower was in a losing battle up front. The Hawks dominated the scrums.

Huge prop Saula Ma’u had too much power.

There is some talent out wide, as well. Winger Viliami Fine has pace, power, skill and he is awfully hungry.

Midfielder Willie Tufui is another recent arrival at the club and he certainly knows how to bump tacklers. He scored an important second half try for the Hawks, while winger Mone Palu bagged a first-half double, including an intercept from 70m out to help his side take a 12-5 lead into the break.

Southern stayed in the match through some clever positional kicking from Riku Kitahara. Outside back Mackenzie Haugh scored a brace of tries and fullback Obey Samate dodged his way past plenty of traffic.

Loose forward Brad Horne had a strong game and experienced No8 Mika Mafi hit the ball up a lot.

But a couple of defensive lapses by the backs proved costly.

Kaikorai 36 Dunedin 16

This was a game that reached no great heights as both sides struggled to control the ball. Lots of ball was spilt in contact and the passing was largely inaccurate.

Kaikorai controlled territory and possession and the points eventually came and it was up by 13 points deservedly late in the first spell. Dunedin finally got some possession in the attack zone and winger Josh Moorby stepped his opposite to dot down and cut the gap at the break, but that was as close as the home side would get.

Kaikorai took its chances in the second spell to race out to a 25-point lead on the back of a dominant performance by the pack and the game was well and truly done. It dominated at lineout time and forced numerous turnovers and penalties in the contact areas as the Kaikorai loose forwards totally outplayed their opposites.

Dunedin, by contrast, was sloppy at lineout time, too tentative in contact and the forwards for the most part were subdued. The backline was aimless and continually shuffled across field making it to easy for the defence. The backline did throw three perfect passes, however, to gift Kaikorai 21 points from intercepts.

No8 Christian Lio-Willie was good for Kaikorai as he ate up the territory with ball in hand and sorely tested the defences. Halfback Kane Johnston was efficient in everything he did.

For Dunedin Jack Regan was far and away the standout and his work rate was inspirational.

Taieri 27 University 24

Death, taxes and a narrow escape for Taieri — they are all inevitable right?

Taieri mastered the art last season and has not lost its touch.

First five-eighth Brayden Laing drilled a penalty in the 79th minute to seal a tense 27-24 win against University at Logan Park.

It was a replay of the final last season and the match delivered on the drama front.

The Eels dominated the first 20 minutes and probably should have opened up an unassailable lead.

But University got back into the contest and led 17-12 at the halftime.

Matt Whaanga scored a try for Taieri and the defending champion was awarded a penalty try.

But the lead was short-lived. University scored through midfielder Josh Timu, who was impressive.

Jordan Hand nailed the conversion to level the scores 24-24.

The last 25 minutes were an arm-wrestle. But Taieri got down the field at the right time for Laing to slot the winning points from 25m out.

University hooker Ricky Jackson had a strong game and was packing down in the dominant scrum. Loose forwards Josh Hill and Louis Magalogo excelled at the breakdown.

Timu scored two nice individual tries.

For Taieri, front rowers Brady Robertson and Tom Hill carried strongly, while loose forwards Sam Fischli and Nick Henderson were busy.

Green Island 24 Alhambra-Union 15

Green Island showed glimpses that it will be a tough side to overcome this season with its 24-15 against Alhambra-Union at Miller Park.

Its commitment to defence gave Alhambra-Union little opportunity. While the win will serve as a huge boost of confidence for the Grizzlies, letting in two late tries and succumbing to a high penalty count will no doubt come up at the debriefing.

An abundance of territory and possession, which included a tighthead to Green Island at the first scrum, came about from the Grizzlies’ dominance up front. Former North Otago representatives Josh Clark and Woody Kirkwood complimented the excellent work of front rowers Shane Fikken, Peter Mirrielees and Sitiveni Tupou.

The tight five combination set a solid platform for the team’s dominance in all facets and provided a strong launching pad for the careers of the team’s six debutants in the clubs premier ranks.

One such player was industrious left wing Bradley McPate, who was not one to shy away from defensive responsibilities, while also having an eye for the gap and opportunity to attack.

Other club debutants making their mark were centre Levi Harmon, a representative for both the Wellington and Hawke’s Bay unions, and Highlander Sam Gilbert, who proved a potent force at fullback.

For Alhambra-Union Ben McCarthy proved his versatility, featuring at fullback before being switched to halfback and finishing the game at first five-eighth.

 - ODT rugby writers 

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