Rugby: South prevails in entertaining game

South Island first five-eighth Tom Marshall gets the ball over the line for a try. Photos by...
South Island first five-eighth Tom Marshall gets the ball over the line for a try. Photos by Peter McIntosh.
Upper Clutha coach Dean Millar points Roman Alty (6) towards the tryline during their team's...
Upper Clutha coach Dean Millar points Roman Alty (6) towards the tryline during their team's match against Dunedin at halftime in the main fixture.
North Island second five-eighth Hadleigh Parkes tackles Marshall.
North Island second five-eighth Hadleigh Parkes tackles Marshall.
North Island halfback Brendon Leonard tries to barge through the South Island defence of Matt...
North Island halfback Brendon Leonard tries to barge through the South Island defence of Matt Todd (left) and Tom Donnelly during the North v South match at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin yesterday.

An utter waste of time. A betrayal of a special part of New Zealand's rugby heritage.

Well, boo-sucks to all those who turned minor scepticism over the hastily revived interisland game into near-hysterical condemnation.

This needed to be appreciated for what it was: a fairly entertaining afternoon of rugby featuring a decent sprinkling of talent from parts North and South. Nothing more, nothing less.

It was always going to lack the atmosphere and impact of a Super 15 game, much less an All Black test, and the crowd - 7427 - reflected that. It was not a bad turnout, though surely well short of the number required to deliver a major profit.

And, given the All Blacks are running a squad of 30 for the Irish tests, it was not as if the players in the first interisland game in 17 years had the motivation of international selection to help them perform.

But no-one inside the Glasshouse seemed to mind that the game, arranged as part of the recovery package for the Otago Rugby Football Union, had little at stake.

No-one told Kurt Baker his performance was irrelevant, and the Highlanders fullback responded with two tries and three goal kicks to lead the South to a deserved victory.

In front of him, Crusaders first five Tom Marshall enjoyed a rare outing and ran the backline with aplomb.

In the South pack, Matt Todd produced the sort of all-action performance that has, in the past, created the automatic assumption he will eventually succeed Richie McCaw in the All Blacks.

And, as you would expect, the all-Southland front row of Jamie Mackintosh, captain Jason Rutledge and Chris King thrashed themselves for the cause - helping raise money to ease the financial pain caused by their traditional enemy, Otago rugby.

It was not a whitewash and the black-clad North side providing plenty of highlights.

Former Highlanders fullback Robbie Robinson looked right at home, and Lachie Munro and Brendon Leonard formed a reasonable inside back combination.

Big No 8 Brad Shields showed his talent, towering lock James Broadhurst dominated the early stages, and replacement Scott Waldrom was all over the field.

Speaking of replacements, the match created a little bit of history, with teams allowed to make up to 12 changes in a rugby league-style interchange. Normally, teams may make only seven (permanent) changes for a game to retain first-class status. But the New Zealand Rugby Union received approval under an obscure IRB law to use the interchange system.

The game was marred by a fight just before halftime, following a spear tackle by Leonard on Rutledge. Kendrick Lynn and Dane Coles exchanged punches, before North lock Filo Paulo appeared to strike South counterpart Tom Donnelly on the ground.

A citing commissioner was on duty, and, not surprisingly, he summonsed Leonard, Coles, Paulo and Lynn to appear before the judiciary.

What will be a surprise is if another North-South game is played in the short term.

The interisland clash really needs to involve the best players from both islands to hold long-lasting appeal, and it is simply too difficult to see where it can fit into a congested calendar.


Interisland match
The scores
South
... 32
Kurt Baker 2, Tom Marshall, Adam Whitelock, Matt Todd tries; Baker 2 con, pen
North ... 24
Robbie Robinson 2, Sherwin Stowers tries; Lachie Munro 2 con, pen, Robinson con
Halftime: South 22-10.

Five stars
1. Matt Todd (South): The Crusaders flanker got through a power of work.
2. Kurt Baker (South): Rarely sighted for the Highlanders but made the most of this opportunity.
3. Chris King (South): No-one has ever seen the Highlanders prop run with the ball so much.
4. Robbie Robinson (North): The Chiefs fullback is as Southern as it comes but he showed some lovely touches for the North.
5. James Broadhurst (North): The big Hurricane showed New Zealand's locking stocks are strong


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