ZR handed reality check

Zingari-Richmond winger Ryan Kreft chases a wayward ball against University last Saturday. PHOTO:...
Zingari-Richmond winger Ryan Kreft chases a wayward ball against University last Saturday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Chunky defeats are not normally a surprise for Zingari-Richmond.

The Colours are well used to being on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

But Saturday’s 54-26 away loss to University came as a reality check.

Zingari-Richmond had been setting the pace alongside Green Island this season.

They had won five straight, and that has come as a pleasant respite for fans who had become used to seeing their team battle at the other end of the competition standings for the past 20 years or so.

There has been a lot of talk about the size of their pack — they are enormous. And there have been plenty of rumours about the money being thrown around at Montecillo Park — that mud gets thrown at every team having a good season.

But coach William Hola puts the turnaround down to hard work.

"We’ve surprised a few people and surprised ourselves mainly, to be honest," he said.

"But it has been a lot of work, though. What people are seeing now is all the hard work we’ve done behind the scenes."

Hola was hoping for some success, but he felt it would take time for the side to gel, so they have exceeded his expectations.

Their goal was to make the playoffs and that looks pretty much assured now.

Zingari-Richmond started with a gutsy 20-18 win over Harbour on a bleak Thursday night at Watson Park. The conditions were brutal and so were some of the tackles.

It was immediately clear the size of their pack was going to make them a much more formidable side.

But they also looked more organised out wide than in the previous season, when they also had some behemoths up front.

They edged a rebuilding and undersized Taieri side 34-32 in their next outing and posted a 48-43 win over perennial powerhouse Dunedin.

That has been arguably their most notable win so far.

It soon become obvious the draw had panned out nicely for Zingari.

They beat the struggling Alhambra-Union 38-22 next up, then beat Taieri again.

But they came unstuck against a resurgent University side that played some expansive rugby.

Hola suggested the loss may help his side in the long term.

"That loss was probably needed. We don’t like to lose like that. It was definitely a beating, and credit to Varsity.

"But I said to the boys this could be a blessing in disguise. We lose now but we take the learnings."

They get a chance to apply those lessons when they host Harbour tomorrow.

The Hawks have had completely contrasting fortunes. They started the season with six consecutive losses, but edged Dunedin 27-24 in Port Chalmers last week.

In the other games, Southern are at home to University, Kaikorai play Green Island at Bishopscourt, and Dunedin will look to bounce back against Taieri at Kettle Park.