Rugby fans pack out Rugby Park

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    Tim Boys (Blair Vining XV) makes a fleeting tackle on Dwayne Sweeney (Invitational XV). Photos: Dave Loudon

    EVERYONE seemed to go home with a smile after the Pack the Park event at Rugby Park Stadium in Invercargill last Saturday.

    The bodies of the veteran players may have been a tad sore but it was all for a good cause.

    The match was played as a thank you to the Otago-Southland community who had got behind the Southland Charity Hospital during the past year.

    Southland farmer Blair Vining had been a huge campaigner for improved medical services for cancer patients in the south and his cause is continuing despite his death last year.

    His family has continued the campaign and decided to come up with the charity game to thank those who had helped raised more than $500,000.

    Southlanders and those from further afield were not slow in coming forward and players came from far and wide for the game.

    A crowd of about 7000 was at the match and they were there to enjoy themselves.

    Loud cheering, a few beers and a lot of fun as well as a streaker kept the atmosphere alive.

    The game was played in two, 30-minute halves and in the end the Blair Vining XV ran out a comfortable 52-17 win over an invitational XV after it led 19-0 at the break.

    Those to impress on the field were former All Black first five-eighth Carlos Spencer, who still looks good enough to play, former All Black Pita Alatini, who still displayed a good step, while big lock Troy Flavell got round the paddock.

    Flavell made a memorable run and looked set for glory before running out of steam.

    Ali Williams scored a try for the Blair Vining XV while Dwayne Sweeney also helped himself to a try for the invitational side.

    The game was refereed by former top international referee Craig Joubert.

    South African Joubert now lives in Tauranga and works for World Rugby.

    He was joined by fellow former international referees Keith Brown and Vinnie Munro, who ran the touch, while Paddy O’Brien controlled the sidelines.

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