December 7, 2022

Woodlands keeps Galbraith Shield in a nailbiter

Woodlands won the Galbraith Shield for the third consecutive year by beating Pirates Old Boys 28-27 in Southland’s premier club final at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Saturday.

Captain Marty McKenzie said the result could easily have gone the other way, but he was proud his side came out of a hole in the second half and found a way to win.

Coach Richard Jones was also proud of Woodlands’ efforts.

“We have a good team, but we worked hard,” Jones said.

“The Hawks put pressure on us and we walked away from what we did well, but Finals players like Cabbage (Jason Rutledge) knew what we had to do to win.”

McKenzie, who did well to stay on the field after heavy collisions, led the team admirably, Jones said.

The Pirates Old Boys Hawks were convinced of an upset and had a large crowd of supporters.

The Hawks got off to a great start, as hooker Tale Tuapati ran the roster at its usual high level. The scrum held up well and their loosies, led by No 8 Hayden Hegarty, won the break.

Halfback Josh Murrell’s passing accuracy and Greg Dyer’s punt were impressive for the first 15 minutes.

Woodlands fullback Kieran Lee opened the scoring when he burst just inside the corner flag. McKenzie reversed the conversion to the terrace side and added a penalty soon after.

Hawks center Isaac Te Tamaki got his team on the board when he swerved off the line for a converted try. Dyer made a nice line break soon after, which led to a score-locking penalty.

Woodlands managed five minutes before halftime; a McKenzie penalty was followed by a big run from Charles Alaimalo that led Woodlands right winger Drew Carter to score just inside the flag, and McKenzie’s conversion gave a 20-10 lead.

After the break, Hawks open side Ben Keenan was knocked down just before the line and halfback Josh Murrell snuck in for a converted try. A deliberate knockdown past the posts by Jason Rutledge meant he was on for the sin-bin and Dyer clinched the penalty goal.

When Stags No8 Alaimalo was called off the field after 55 minutes, the rowdy Hawks fans gained confidence. Hawks tight header Riki Gage quickly joined Rutledge in the trash after a minor scuffle, but the Hawks didn’t suffer as their slick backline put him in the hands of impressive fullback Materua Tupou to score in the corner. The conversion had the Hawks ahead 27-20 with 20 minutes remaining.

McKenzie closed the gap with a penalty goal and with five minutes remaining, Kieran Lee held off his opponent for what would be the winning try. McKenzie missed the conversion to leave Woodlands ahead by one point.

In the final three minutes, substitute striker Michael Gellatly and winger Matt James made some big plays for Woodlands. The Pirates had one last chance after earning a spin penalty just out of kicking range, Dyer kicked for territory, but after a messy victory Woodlands claimed the ball and sent it off.

Lee, the architect of last year’s Shield victory, has taken on a calmer role this year as a full-back but still managed to score two important tries.

“He’s reliable and a clutch player who would excel at the next level,” Jones said.

Another player mentioned by Jones was No8 Alaimalo.

“Charles made some important defensive shots which gave the boys a boost. He can’t be far from a Super Rugby gig.”

All three games between Woodlands and Pirates Old Boys this season have been decided by one point.

Co-coach Ben McHugh lamented a few key moments that simply didn’t go unnoticed by the Pirates.

Edendale won the Division One Ack Soper Shield title with a 35-34 victory over Wyndham at Les George Oval.

Galbraith’s Shield Final

Sheet music

Forests 28
Kieran Lee 2, Drew Carter tries; Marty McKenzie 2 against, 3 feathers

Pirates old boys 27
Isaac Te Tamaki, Josh Murrell, Materua Tupou tries; Greg Dyer 3 with, 2 pens

Half time: Forests 20-10.

John Langford