WOODLANDS pulled off one of the most remarkable victories imaginable when it won Southland’s Galbraith Shield final 24-23 over Star 24-23 at Rugby Park in Invercargill on Saturday.
Star looked certain to win, leading 23-7 with seven minutes remaining, but Woodlands was able to score three late tries to steal the victory.
Woodlands went from plan B after a suspension and injuries during the week to plan C on Saturday morning when Curtis and Cole Williams were stuck in airports, along with Ricky Baker. A couple of the players from the B team were promoted for the day and coach Richard Jones himself was stripped in the No 22 jersey.
“It has been eight years since I played and I had no intention of going on,” Jones said.
Jones and his assistant Dan Cavanagh were proud of all the team. “It was pretty special, they all dug deep, the pack in general was superb.”
Regular fullback Kieran Lee had to play first five-eighth – Keiran handled the pressure superbly; it was a special performance from him.”
Star started the game best and Ben Pope kicked a couple of penalty goals. After 20 minutes, Star halfback Hayden Edgely scored a converted try when he pounced on a Woodlands loose ball from a lineout close to the line.
Lee looked dangerous every time he touched the ball and scored a converted try. Lock Caleb Aperahama and No 8 Charles Alaimalo made numerous hit ups.
The Woodlands scrum was dominant and the pack looked likely to barge over before half-time but Star held them out.
Trailing 13-7, Woodlands controlled the 10 minutes after the resumption. Ben Pope’s punting got Star out of trouble on a couple of occasions and Pope kicked his third penalty goal with 20 minutes remaining.
It didn’t look good for Woodlands when Jason Rutledge uncharacteristically threw a couple of bent lineout throws. Following a trademark burst from Jordan Stewart, Star centre Joel Findlay scored under the posts.
Leading 23-7, a Greg Pleasants-Tate turnover inside the last 10 minutes should have broken Woodlands’ spirit but instead it inspired an attack. Lee beat two men and dotted down behind the posts. The conversion missed which meant Woodlands still needed two more tries in five minutes.
The Woodlands forwards rolled back down the paddock using their one-off-the-ruck ball runners and Joe Walsh scored a converted try. In the last play of the game, Woodlands put more than 30 phases together before Lee cut through to score the match-winner.
Aperahama had a huge work rate, while props Joe Walsh and Chris Barrett were good at scrum time and in general play. Halfback Ian de Reuck impressed with his passing and Lee deserved his hat-trick of tries.
By season’s end, Woodlands’ makeshift backline was missing six players with National Provincial Championship experience. Jones said Woodlands had used 35 players this year.
Rutledge) has been unreal this year, he’s a 43-year-old man the team would follow anywhere.”
In the division one competition, Wyndham beat Edendale 26-10 in the Ack Soper Shield final. With the score 10-all at half-time, Wyndham landed three penalty goals before a converted try to finish. Wyndham’s Kirk Given was packing down in his 200th against Adam Muir in his 100th game for Edendale.
Collegiate tipped up Mataura in the Gerald Dermody Shield final 29-24 at Tulloch Park, Mataura, after leading 17-7 at half-time. Collegiate made the gutsy decision to enter division one this year after winning the division two B final last year.
In the senior women’s final, Marist beat Blues 46-15 in the curtain-raiser match at Rugby Park.
In the division two semi-finals, Drummond Limehills Star (DLS) beat Wakatipu 18-3 at Limehills and Te Anau had a 41-20 win at home against Star B. DLS will play Te Anau in the final on Saturday at Drummond.
Saturday’s draw. All games 2.30pm unless stated otherwise:
Division two: CJ Soper Trophy: DLS v Te Anau at Drummond.
Life Members’ Trophy: Marist B v Waiau Star at Les George Oval.
Past Presidents’ Shield: Balfour v Ohai Nightcaps Otautau.
Premier grade: Galbraith Shield: Woodlands 24, Star 23.
Division one: Ack Soper Shield: Edendale 10, Wyndham 26.
Gerald Dermody Shield: Mataura 24, Collegiate 29.
Division Two: CJ Soper Trophy: DLS 18, Wakatipu 3; Te Anau 41, Star B 20.
Life Members’ Trophy: POB B 40, Waiau Star 33; Blues B 5, Marist B 15.
Past Presidents’ Shield: Balfour 99, Bush Pirates ; Woodlands B 10, Ohai Otautau 18.
Senior women: Marist 46, Blues 15.
Presidents’ Cup: Waikaia 3, Wyndham 8.