Green Island's smart rugby paying dividends

Green Island prop Peter Mirrielees is tackled by Taieri prop Kieran O'Sullivan in a match between...
Green Island prop Peter Mirrielees is tackled by Taieri prop Kieran O'Sullivan in a match between the two sides last year at Miller Park. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Green Island did what is almost unthinkable these days - it kicked for goal instead of for touch.

And guess what - it won the game.

Kaikorai had fallen well behind at Miller Park on Saturday. But the Demons had scored two tries within a couple of moments and suddenly the match was back in the balance.

But the spirit was sucked out of the comeback when Green Island pivot Finn Strawbridge lined up a penalty goal instead of plugging the corner to set up a lineout drive.

He drilled it, which helped of course. But maybe that is the biggest difference between the giant-killing Green Island team, which finished seventh last year, and the class of 2019 which is undefeated in two games this year.

This team appears to have more patience and understands the value of small moments in a match better perhaps.

"As you know, what cost us last year was bonus points," Green Island coach Dean Moeahu said.

"Our leadership group is well aware of the need to accumulate points, so we are just making smart decisions.

"One of those smart decisions was when Kaikorai fought their way back in. But we got a penalty in front and took the three points.

"That left them chasing the game again."

Some of that leadership is coming from Southland midfielder Raymond Nu'u. He was brilliant for Green Island in the comfortable win against Alhambra-Union in the opening game, and he made a big impact when he came on at halftime on the weekend.

"He is a very clever rugby player. He does have an abrasive side to the way he plays, but it's actually his finesse and his rugby knowledge which makes him a really, really good rugby player.

"He is definitely a kid to watch for the future."

He is contracted to Southland, so that is where his immediate future lies, though.

Otago No8 Dylan Nel did not play on Saturday. But his presence at the boot of the scrum is another reason why Green Island looks very much like a top four side this year.

It has also picked up a good core of former Otago Boys' High School first XV players.

The likes of halfback James Arscott and fullback Isaak Te Hiwi are looking very comfortable in their first season in the premier grade.

The young front row of Shane Fikken, Jake Fowler and Tim Tawakatini have made a positive impression as well.

Fikken was dynamic in the loose and Fowler found his way to the try line for a couple of tries in a busy game.

While Green Island's victory against Kaikorai will have done wonders for the team's confidence, it has a big game against Taieri at Miller Park tomorrow.

Dubbed the Battle of the Saddle, it is one of those fixtures both clubs look forward to.

Dunedin will host Kaikorai in another interesting match. Both teams have one win from three games, and need a win to inject some momentum into their campaigns.

Harbour should be too strong for the winless Alhambra-Union at Watson Park, while University is chasing its first win when it plays Zingari-Richmond at Monticello.

Competition front-runner Southern has the bye this weekend.

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