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Reigning champion Clutha was made to work for its 36-28 home win against Toko in the opening round of the Southern Region competition on Saturday.
Clutha had a dominant first half, scoring four tries to one, but in typical Toko fashion, the men from Milton came back fighting in the second half to close the gap and build some confidence heading into next week.
Toko had plenty of injuries to trouble its already lean-looking squad, so credit to the
reserves who came on and made plenty of impact.
The forward battle was strong with Toko edging the set piece.
Max Pennell and Connor Mills stood out in the forwards for Clutha. Zak Thoms, in his 50th match, performed well at first five-eighth. Halfback Shaun Aitken was strong for Toko, as were props Bernie O’Sullivan and Michael Aitken.
West Taieri had a strong win in its debut game in the Southern Region, beating Clinton 45-0 at Clinton to take home the Speight’s Jug.
West Taieri was too well drilled and dominated as its big and mobile pack got through plenty of work and set a good platform. When Clinton was in possession at times, it managed to hold its own, but could not capitalise.
Prop Ethan Hippolite scored a double for West Taieri and was a menace with ball in hand. Ben Scorgie had a strong game on the side of the scrum.
Tom Copland had a strong game for Clinton with plenty of forward carries.
Crescent had a convincing 38-20 win over Heriot at Death Valley. Heriot led the match 15-14 at the break but Crescent’s superior fitness and talented backline allowed the Coal Miners to overtake the home side in the second spell and not look back.
Crescent winger Nico Burgess grabbed a double and was dangerous out wide. Andy Carruthers and Logan Mackie got through plenty of work in the loose.
Mark McKenzie scored a double for Heriot and was a standout for the home side.
Clutha Valley came from behind to beat Owaka 29-10 at Clydevale. Owaka was leading 10-0 at the break and dominated the first half. Clutha Valley got its tail up in the second spell and romped to victory through a decent platform set by its forwards and some magic off the bench.
Clutha 36 (Connor Mills, Max Pennell, Pene Seaoga, Tyler Brouwer, Zak Thoms tries; Thoms 3 con), Toko 28 (Brad Frost 2, Michael Aitken, Matt Lyon tries; Jacky Scott 4 con). HT 26-7.
West Taieri 45 (Ethan Hippolite 2, Ben Davidson, Dave McNeill, Conor Beaton, Ryan Sutherland, Pat Hamer tries; Callum Smeaton 5 con), Clinton 0. HT 26-0.
Crescent 38 (Nico Burgess 2, Andy Carruthers, Ethan Edwards, Luke Wilson, Logan Mackie tries; Chase Owen 4 con), Heriot 20 (Mark McKenzie 2, Tyson Adams, Te Rangi Broughton tries). HT 14-15.
Clutha Valley 29 (Jared Edwards 2, Daymon Shanks, Bibi Teriuea, Maurice Tairua tries; Brayden Wilson 2 con), Owaka 10 (Takyhara Ieru, Francis Parker tries). HT 0-10.
- Francis Parker