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Green Island also made progress in the competition standings with a dramatic 20-19 win against a valiant Alhambra-Union outfit.
Southern prevailed 27-26 in a thriller with Dunedin but University remains at the top of the table following a comfortable 36-8 win against Zingari-Richmond.
Green Island 20
Green Island needed a large dollop of luck to overcome a spirited Alhambra-Union at Miller Park.
Trailing 19-13 with three or four minutes remaining, Green Island seemed to have lost the match. First five-eighth Finn Hart-Strawbridge had kept his side in the contest with some wonderful goal kicking, and a late try to veteran front rower Peter Mirrielees in the first half meant the home side was always within striking distance.
But a try to Highlanders back-up loose forward Marino Mikaele Tu’u, and a penalty to Brady Kingan, gave the visitors a six-point lead going into the final stretch.
Green Island mustered the energy for a final assault and Alhambra crumbled under pressure, conceding two late yellow cards.Green Island initially tried to muscle its way over but spun the ball to the left, where winger Nelson Yorston slipped over to score in the corner.
Hart-Strawbridge drilled the sideline conversion to get his side in front by one.
Alhambra was not beaten just yet. It rumbled the ball up through the forwards but came up with a fumble near the goal line.
Alhambra hooker Alex Frood had a mighty game for the second week running but Hart-Strawbridge was the star, thanks to his goal-kicking.
The win has kept Green Island in touch with the competition’s top four teams.
If you did not know already, this year’s premier competition is wildly unpredictable.
The form book suggested a win for Taieri. The Eels were previously unbeaten after all, whereas Kaikorai had endured back-to-back losses.
The opening exchanges at Peter Johnstone Park did not offer much in the way of a counter narrative, either.
Perhaps Taieri believed that hype just a little too much as well because, midway through the first spell, the team appeared to get a little complacent.
It had scored two tries but suddenly, Kaikorai looked the hungrier of the teams.Taieri’s forwards turned the heat down and Kaikorai halfback Josh Renton started running the show with his box kicks.
Kaikorai turned its slow start into a 22-14 lead at the break. But the turning point came midway through the second half when Jordan McEntee nabbed an intercept and ran 75m to score. That stretched Kaikorai’s lead to 30-21.
The Eels would have counted on being dominant in the lineouts but Kaikorai put a lot of pressure on in that area as well.
Renton was the standout player and prop Sam Wyber was prominent, particularly in the first half. Taieri halfback Kurt Hammer also had a good game.
Southern won the game through its set piece. It dominated the lineout as Dunedin self-destructed, especially in the second half, where it hardly won one. It was the same story at scrum time as Southern dictated and had the Dunedin pack in reverse for most of the game.
With the glut of possession, Southern had the first try inside four minutes when No8 Mika Mafi crashed over. Dunedin was playing without the ball, battling the referee, and could not find touch from the few penalties it got.
Dunedin settled down and had a golden 15 minutes when it held on to the ball and scored three converted tries from close range as it hammered away at the Southern line.
Flanker Hame Toma bagged a brace and captain Mark Grieve Dunn crashed over for a 14-point lead going into the break.
Southern started the second half the same as the first. Inside 20 minutes, the lead had been erased by three tries to Mackenzie Haugh, Josh Gordon and Bryce Hosie.
Jono Hayes then kicked a penalty to give Southern a six-point lead with eight minutes left and the game looked done.
The game took a bizarre twist, however, when Dunedin midfielder Jared Fahey latched on to a loose pass 70m out and looked like running the matchwinner in. He was dragged down just short by the cover.
But Dunedin could sniff the try and after 10 phases on the line it was fellow midfielder Solofa Silipa who went over 10m in from touch.
It was all down to winger Rory Ward to nail the conversion but it was not to be and, deservedly, Southern held on to win the game.
For Southern, props Jone Levi and Hisa Sasagi were immense. Lock Pari Pari Parkinson dominated the lineout and winger Josh Gordon was the most dangerous back. For Dunedin, Grieve Dunn never gave up, Toma was powerful with ball in hand and Fahey was a rock in the midfield.
A dominant forward pack laid the foundation for victory as University overcame an ebullient Zingari-Richmond 36-8 at Logan Park.
University began the match knowing it needed to secure victory and bounce back from its loss in a top-of-the-table encounter with Taieri last week. After dominating the early exchanges, the pack decimated a Zingari-Richmond defensive 5m scrum, to win the tighthead. Halfback Kieran McClea then opened the students’ account, scoring the first of his two tries.
Zingari-Richmond bounced back with commitment and a sustained period in University territory, leading to a brilliant touch from centre Tevita Nabura, who carved his way to the line from 30m out to keep the side from Montecillo in touch with the competition leaders.
But as the first half drew to a close, the University pack took control. The tight five dictated terms, especially through hooker Jim Smith and lock Josh Hill. Smith scored just before the break through a classic blind side move to hand the students a 17-8 advantage.
Despite its commitment, Zingari-Richmond was unable to add to its score in the second spell as the students dominated territory and possession, running in a further three tries to secure a bonus-point victory.