McDowall's spoils - a blazer and a shield

"We knew the occasion was big, but we had to put that to one side and just concentrate on putting a performance out there that we could be proud of. And I think we did that.'' Photo: Peter McIntosh
"We knew the occasion was big, but we had to put that to one side and just concentrate on putting a performance out there that we could be proud of. And I think we did that.'' Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago flanker Slade McDowall could not have timed his blazer game better.

The 20-year-old played his 15th game for Otago on Saturday as it beat Waikato 23-19 to win the Ranfurly Shield.

McDowall had an impressive 40 minutes up in Hamilton, getting wide in his role and knocking a few players over before being taken off at halftime.

It was a planned substitution, with the experienced James Lentjes - who is working his way back into playing from a neck injury - coming on for the second half.

Despite only getting 40 minutes, McDowall said it was great fun playing in a winning shield team.

''It's a pretty cool moment. Just enjoying being with a good bunch of guys. We had great support up there and that helped us a lot,'' he said.

McDowall said the side had treated the game as just another match, but it was hard to ignore that it was a Ranfurly Shield challenge.

''We knew the occasion was big, but we had to put that to one side and just concentrate on putting a performance out there that we could be proud of. And I think we did that.''

McDowall knew Lentjes was going to come on at some stage, so had to give his all. He knocked over Fletcher Smith before the first try scored by Mitchell Scott.

Lentjes is something of a mentor for McDowall, with the young flanker saying he is teaching him lots about the way the game is played at the higher level.

But with the way McDowall has played in the past couple of games, it may be a case of pupil passing teacher.

McDowall hails from a farm in Mataura, although his parents have since sold that and moved to Dunedin.

He was educated at Otago Boys' High School, where he played different loose forward positions, but now sees himself as a pure openside flanker.

The game, though, has changed in the past couple of years and the openside flanker has become more of a ball runner. Turning the ball over is still seen as an asset, but not perhaps as vital as it once was.

''You try to do a bit of both. You still have to go to a few dark places. It has changed a bit in the last year or two. But you can still get the odd turnover if you pick your moments.''

An ankle injury slowed his progress for his club, Kaikorai, this season, but he is getting the benefit of being relatively fresh for Otago. He made his Otago debut last year, coming off the bench in a gutsy win against Auckland.

His parents, Kenneth and Janice, and brother, Riley, were all at the game in Hamilton on Saturday, so it was great to share the personal and team achievement with them, he said.

McDowall made the New Zealand schools teams in 2015, where he played in a loose forward trio with Highlander Marino Mikaele-Tu'u and new All Black Dalton Papali'i.

Those two have gone to the next level at Super Rugby and McDowall, who is studying sport and fitness at Otago Polytechnic, is keen to land in the same area.

''I will just have to wait and see what is going to happen. At the moment I'm just trying to get as many minutes as I can.''

Add a Comment

 

xmas_banner_620_x_95.jpg

See more great gift ideas !   For Her  |  For Him  |  For Families  |  For Kids  | 

xmas_banner2.jpg