Midlands puts in hard yards

Blues lock Jay Naqianvalu charges through Marist players during a game played at Blues in Invercargill on Saturday. Photo: Debbie Fahey

MIDLANDS will play its last game of premier club rugby for 2021 in round six against the unbeaten Pirates Old Boys at Invercargill’s Surrey Park on Saturday.

Midlands almost pulled off the upset of the season last week against the Galbraith Shield holder Woodlands.

Midlands coach Dayna Cunningham was frustrated with the 17-7 loss. “We could have won it, it was as our best opportunity to beat a premier team but a few little mistakes cost us.”

After a moment’s silence at Centennial Park in Winton for Midlands life member Ross McKerchar, the young Midlands side got stuck in to the defending champion and had it rattled for most of the match.

The Woodlands attack looked blunt without usual first five-eighth Marty McKenzie and it was Midlands which looked most likely to score a try. A penalty goal to Woodlands first five-eighth Ricky Baker were the only points in the first half.

Midlands’ confidence was evident after the resumption with prop Conner McDermott, No 8 Sam Brame, blindside Joe Robins, fullback Te Hura Wilson and first-five Tom Crean all playing well.

Midlands scored a deserved converted try to wing Aaron McDowell after 52 minutes but Woodlands cancelled that out immediately when lock Blair McKenzie barged over for a converted try.

Midlands went back on attack and, with 15 minutes remaining, put severe pressure on the Woodlands line. Man of the match Sam Wheely was making inroads with his hard running through the midfield but Woodlands withstood the siege and worked its way back down the field.

Midlands captain Sam Brame never tired and made a punishing tackle late in the game which lifted his team-mates and supporters. Brame then earned a turnover to give the locals one last chance but it was Woodlands hooker Jason Rutledge who had the last say in the match, scoring a pushover try. The conversion made for a flattering final score of 17-7.

Rutledge held his team together all afternoon and fullback Kieran Lee got his side out of trouble a few times during the last 15 minutes. Woodlands got out of jail in Winton and has much to improve on to beat Blues this Saturday.

Blues beat Marist 17-10 on its club day at Balmoral Dr last week, while the Eastern Northern Barbarians thrashed Star 49-nil at the Gore Showgrounds. Star is not travelling well after losing four of its five games. Star has a bye this week, while Marist will host the Barbarians.

The headline match in the division one competition is at Wyndham against near neighbours Edendale.

Results — Premier: E N Barbarians 49 – Star 0, Woodlands 17 – Midlands 7, Blues 17 – Marist 10.

Division one: Waikaka 57 – Mossburn 5, Waikiwi 32 – Te Anau 24, Riversdale 18 – Collegiate 10, Wyndham 34 – Mataura 13, Edendale 47 – Albion 29, Tokanui 28 – Pioneer 17.
Division two: Balfour/Lumsden 65 – Bush Pirates 0, DLS 36 – Riverton 12, Marist 36 – Blues 20, Pirates Old Boys 52 – Ohai Nightcaps Otautau 5, Waiau Star 17 – Bluff 27, Wakatipu 24 – Star B 22, Woodlands B v bye.

Saturday’s draw. All games 3pm unless stated: Premier: Galbraith Shield: Woodlands v Blues, POB v Midlands, Marist v Barbarians, Star v bye.

Division one: Pool A; Waikiwi v Riversdale, Mossburn v Collegiate, Waikaka v Te Anau.
Pool B: Albion v Tokanui, Mataura v Pioneer, Wyndham v Edendale.

Division two: Pool A: Riverton v Waiau Star, Bluff v Balfour, Ohai Nightcaps Otautau v DLS at Otautau.

Pool B: Woodlands B v Blues B at 1.30pm, Marist B v Wakatipu, POB B v bye. Crossover game: Bush Pirates v Star B.

Women: Blues v Wakatipu, Marist v Albion, both 1pm Sunday, Pioneer v bye.