McGlashan hoping upset not an anomaly

Josh Whaanga scores a try for John McGlashan last year. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Josh Whaanga scores a try for John McGlashan last year. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Who goes to Invercargill and wins?

Johnnies, that’s who.

John McGlashan College has done what very few teams have managed.

The First XV travelled south on Wednesday and upset powerhouse Southland Boys’ High School 23-17.

It was the opening game of the Otago Schools Rugby Championship and also doubled as an interschool fixture.

The early buzz suggested Southland Boys’ would be the team to beat this season.

But Johnnies has improved plenty and that result is a firm warning to the other 10 teams in the competition.

Coach Russell Lundy, who led Pirates to the Dunedin senior banner in 2002, did not even bother trying to play down the achievement.

"I guess the challenge is to keep the boys’ feet on the ground. It is a huge win for us, for sure, and we won’t pretend it is not," he said.

"We’ve got some ambitions and expectations around the team and this is a really good start.

"But we want to be there come the finals. We faded away at the end of last season and we want to build this year and make sure we are playing strongly at the end."

Crucially, Johnnies have about "14 or 15" players back from last season. That makes all the difference in schoolboy rugby where the teams change dramatically from year to year.

The side has a dangerous midfield featuring captain Jack Timu and Josh Whaanga, who missed the win against Southland Boys’ with a hamstring niggle.

That duo will attract plenty of defensive attention which should present opportunities further wide where the likes of speedy winger Stanley McClure will be waiting to pounce.

First five Max Hore is the son of former Highlander Charlie Hore and possess many of the same skills.

No 8 Phoenix Abbott is another player who brings plenty of energy and "loves rolling his sleeves up and getting into it".

"The midfield is the backbone of our backline, but we’ve got some really classy guys outside and inside them as well.

"What we are hoping is teams will really focus on our midfield and that will create space elsewhere and hopefully we can capitalise."

In the other top six games this week, Waitaki Boys’ will host Otago Boys’, and St Kevin’s is at home to King’s.

In the bottom six, Taieri plays Dunstan, Mt Aspiring hosts Wakatipu and Otago Boys’ 2nds have home field advantage against South Otago.

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