Defending champs face tough test

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Ecstasy . . . Clutha stalwart Max Pennell dives over for a try under the posts during the South Otago rugby final between local rivals Clutha and Crescent in 2018. PHOTO: SI LEEDS

In the last of our weekly previews, rugby correspondent Francis Parker casts his eye over the form and makes some predictions for the coming Southern Region competition. This week: Clutha Valley and Heriot and Clutha and Crescent (page 10).

CLUTHA VALLEY RFC (Condors)

2021 finished – First

Last Champions – 2021

Predicted 2022 finish – Third

Season preview :› Clutha Valley carries over its 14›match winning streak into this season which will bring added pressure. A couple of key departures in the backline will test the depth and rumours are that a couple more players named in the below squad are also yet to make an appearance at training. If these players are also absent, then Valley’s depth will be tested further. However, it should still be the benchmark side again this season. Will it be able to match the excitement and jubilation of last year though?

Coaches – Craig Hyslop & Clint McIvor

Assistant Coach – Aaron Gouman

Manager – Jason Rutter

Medic – Mark Calder

Captain – Jordan Willocks

Player gains — N/A

Player losses — Hamish Wilson, Reece Johnston, Te Rangi Broughton, Lachie Moore, Sean Aitken›Boyle, Daymon Shanks, Brayden Whyte.

Squad:

Forwards — Adam Turnbull, Jack Pringle, Liam Turnbull, Sam Sharpe, Reid Benge, Lachie Gunson, Craig Darling, Scott Gouman, Mike Blair, Josh Botting, Kyle Forbes, George Rutter, Damian Wilson, Conrad Williams, Maurice Tairua, Cody Storer, Mat Anderson.

Backs — Jared Edwards, Thomas Johnson, Brayden Wilson, Bineati Teriuea, Jayden Dovey, Jordan Willocks, Logan Wilson, Todd McCammon, Jonny Sargent. Players to watch — Liam Turnbull, Lachie Gunson, Jordan Willocks, Thomas Johnson.

HERIOT RFC (Death Valley Boys)

2021 finished – Fourth Last Champions – 2013 Predicted 2022 finish – First Season preview – Heriot has been building steadily for the past few seasons and showed its ability more often than not. In 2021 the DVBs were extremely competitive before falling short in the semifinal to the eventual winners, Clutha Valley. It has recruited well over the summer and has introduced some exciting new talent to an already impressive squad. One of the favourites this year for sure. It hosts Valley in round one of the competition proper so we will see its full credentials then.

Coaches – Matt Saunders, Craig Stanway & AJ Aitken

Manager – John McHutchon

Medic – Pip Standish

Captain — TBC

Player gains — Nathan Rhind, Sam Galbraith, Lachlan Dudin, Jack Thom, Johnny Thomson, Pete Aitken, Sam Dodunski, Joshua Reid, Connor McKenzie, Cam Morris.

Player Losses — Bradley Bryant, Maarten Wagenaar, Todd Lee, Lockie Brenssell, Aaron Elliott, Curtis Pannett, Matt Standish, Billy Blair, Caine Ritchie, Pete Willis.

Squad:

Forwards — Ben Millar, Nathan Rhind, Neta Masunu Utumapu, Dylan Mackenzie, Blair Young, Andrew Metherell, Sam Galbraith, James Edgar, Tom Davies, Lachlan Dudin, Tyson Adams, Elliott Hancox, Nick Hayes, Tom Fraser.

Backs — Ethan Jane, Jack Thom, Johnny Thomson, Logan Cornish, Pete Aitken, Sam Dodunski, Mark McKenzie, Clayton Buchanan, Joshua Reid, Connor McKenzie, Cam Morris, Ethan Pryde.

Players to watch – Ben Millar, Nick Hayes, Logan Cornish, Mark McKenzie.

CLUTHA RFC (Steamers)

2021 finished – Third

Last Champions – 2019

Predicted 2002 finish – Second

Season preview — Two seasons in a row now without a finals appearance for Clutha. It will be determined to find its way back to the top of the table. It has recruited well and has a nice balance between youth and experience. Its set pieces should be competitive, and it will be hard to crack on defence. Clutha is one of the favourites in my opinion.

Coach – Simon Grant

Assistant Coach – Tyler Bichan

Manager – Nigel Pennell

Trainer – Kemp Skipper

Medic – TBC

Captain › TBC

Player gains — Scott Hollows, Tate Colley, Oceania Ioane, Dante Macvey, Jack Dent, Jimmy Beck, Tyler Bichan.

Player losses — Jacques Breet, Matt Barton, Sene Te’o, Connor Mills, Cullen Crossan, Dallas Kupa›Pickering, Sam Viliamu,

Squad: Forwards — Ethyn Shanks, Max Pennell, Kurt Turnbull, Phill Keighley, Scott Hollows, Bax Colley, Daniel Miller, Dan Groen, Junior Meafua, Josh Turnbull, Kael Merrett, Tate Colley, Tyler Brouwer, Tyler Haua.

Backs — Sylvester Reeves, Jared Willocks, Ollie Kenny, Steve Barlow, Robin Fesilafai, Jamie Brown, Oceania Ioane, Dante Macvey, Jack Dent, Jimmy Beck, Michael Papali’i, Kane Teunissen, Tyler Bichan.

Players to watch — Bax Colley, Kael Merrett, Jamie Brown, Jimmy Beck.

CRESCENT RFC (Coal Miners)

2021 finished – Fifth

Last Champions – 2006

Predicted 2022 finish – Fourth

Season Preview – Crescent fell short of the mark last year by its standards. It won the bottom four trophy which will be little consolation. Its squad this season has lost some experience in the pack, but there is no reason why it can’t feature in the semifinals. The thirst to improve individually and as a team continues each year for Crescent, it will achieve its goal of winning the competition in the near future, will it be this year?

Coach – Naylor Edwards

Manager – Tin Smith

Assistant Manager – Kurt Allan

Medic – Kevin Sutton

Captains – Josh Cook & Andy Carruthers

Player gains — Rico Marshall, Layton Lowery, Lachy O’Hara, AJ Kell, Clayton Cochrane.

Player losses — Kurt Allan, Damian Green, Alan Anderson, Luc Thomson.

Squad:

Forwards — Lester Papali’i, Fyn Edwards, Rico Marshall, Logan Mackie, Andrew Carruthers, Aydan Edwards, Layton Lowery, Brendan Irwin, Ockert Alberts, Mafi Demont, Jamahl Little, Joe Skipps, Liam Sell, Nick McBride, Callum Craik, Josh Cook, Lachy O’Hara, AJ Kell, Logan Morrell, Aidan Hight.

Backs — Harley McHardy, Chase Owen, Ethan Edwards, Kieran Fitzgerald, Mananui Keane, Nico Burgess, Kobe Thomson, Clayton Cochrane, Jackson Cook, Brae Tourell, Gene McHardy, MacKenzie Storer, William Casey.

Players to watch – Andy Carruthers, Josh Cook, Chase Owen, Ethan Edwards.