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Defending champion Woodlands earned an exciting 34-34 draw with Invercargill Blues on Saturday.
Liam Howley, who had the No10 jersey and the kicking duties for Woodlands in the absence of Marty McKenzie, out with an ear infection, added a penalty to make it 17-0.
Blues hooker Hamish Gray and wing Fili Hufanga got across the line but Woodlands prop Chris Barrett also scored before halftime to give Woodlands a 24-12 lead.
Highlanders prop Ethan de Groot carried the ball strongly in a rare appearance for Blues, as did No8 Albert Qoro, who scored two tries in five minutes.
Blues scored again through Redcliffe Pesata, and Jay Renton kicked a penalty with seven minutes remaining to give them a 10-point lead.
Hooker Jason Rutledge inspired another momentum swing late in the game, and in the final two minutes a Woodlands penalty was followed by a converted try to the dynamic Stags prop Paula Latu.
Woodlands coach Richard Jones said the game had plenty of action but was a tough watch.
"We got off to a handy start but then went to sleep and they came back strong. We didn’t manage the game that well, especially the middle part."
Woodlands was without midfielder Matt Whaanga and loose forward Charles Alaimalo, but Jones said the team was still capable of a better performance than it produced.
Blindside Curtis Williams was man of the match in his 50th game for Woodlands.
Star dominated at home against Midlands, winning 53-7.
Winger Hughan Sharp scored three of Star’s six tries in the first half. Star extended its 34-point lead soon after the break through a try to hooker Jayden Henderson.
First five Te Hura Wilson put seven points on the board for Midlands before Star again took control for the last quarter.
Pirates Old Boys bounced back from their narrow loss to Woodlands last week to beat Marist 59-19.
In the Southland women’s club final, Marist beat Midlands 25-14.
Midlands midfielder Lori Kitto scored the first try to help her side to a 7-5 lead at halftime.
Midlands extended their lead in the 50th minute when hooker Lizzie Souter scored another converted try.
The Marist women then scored three tries in the final 25 minutes to secure victory. Centre Teilah Templeton scored two of Marist’s tries.
Midlands could be proud of its season after fielding a team for the first time this year.
-- John Langford