It has taken 52 years but Heriot finally beat Moa Flat, 20›10, in the annual inter-community rugby match played last Saturday in Heriot.
It was the rebirth of a hard› fought grudge match between the two proud neighbouring West Otago communities which had lapsed over 10 years ago, reportedly due to people moving away and several years of snow interrupting the annual display of rural sporting machismo.
It was restarted this year by Blue Mountain College teacher Lockie Brenssell (Heriot) and farmer Ash Kinaston (Moa Flat).
The teams assembled at Heriot to continue the traditional battle for the sheep’s pelvis, the honourable trophy.
Rumours abound that back in 1969, the manliness, masculinity and stamina of the fine men from up on the hill at Moa Flat was called in to question.
Two esteemed gentlemen of the land, Mike Williamson and George Fletcher (who happened to be the president of Heriot Rugby Club) decided the best way to deal with the disparagement was for the men of both communities to face off in a rugby match between Heriot and Moa Flat after the regular season had finished. Sadly for Heriot, it took it 52 years before it ascended to the throne as the best in the district. This year it was no different than it had been in the past — word on the street before the game was that Moa Flat had been putting in the hard yards up the hill and was hot favourite. Captain Andrew Metherall said it was the best side in years. But Heriot was keeping its cards close to its chest.
Both sides had a good mix of youth and experience and in front of a very parochial crowd, and men of all ages trotted out on to the field on Saturday, keen to do their communities proud.
Resplendent in the harlequin colours of Moa Flat and the blue and white hoops of Heriot, the young and aged put their bodies on the line.
The largish crowd was suitably entertained as calls were heard from the sides as to how many players were allowed on the field, who was going to be the hooker and which way were they playing.
The usual harpies questioned every call by the neutral referee, Scruff.
There were a few who were mistaken in thinking there might have been an All Black selector on hand as they threw the ball about with great flair and ambition but sadly with no style or finesse.
Hands usually engaged in mustering sheep and cattle often missed or fumbled the ball.
The manner in which the game was played caught the Heriot senior players out at times.
Playing in quarters not halves allowed strained bodies to recover and rehydrate, and there were no conversions and no kicking ahead.
The Heriot side prevailed despite the Moa boys dropping in on its line several times in the first half.
The Heriot side, comprising the club’s senior side, was backed up by a large number of reserves (for a total of 30 named), who seemed to run on and off the field at will, helping score enough tries to topple the Moa Flat team made up of 36 retired players, local farmers, contractors, truckies and others.
Moa Flat farmer Craig Jane said both his grandfather and father had played in the match over the years since 1969 and he was proud to run out on the field to continue the family tradition, but he admitted his body would be calling on him the next day.
‘‘It was always a bit of pride to be called into the side but I’m getting older and there were some big boys out there, but it was a fun day for all.’’