South Otago High School First XV was looking forward to a middle four semifinal against St Kevin’s College First XV last Saturday in Balclutha.
The game was held at Balclutha Showgrounds to ensure firm ground conditions and a grandstand for spectators to get a good view.
The week leading up to match day had been mostly warm and sunny but freezing wind, driving rain and sleet greeted the players during the warm›up.
Despite the conditions, it was great to see loads of SOHS supporters and ex›First XV players fill the grandstand to support the team.
SOHS played with the wind at its back in the first half and luckily the rain eased off shortly after kick›off. St Kevin’s had some early territory but could not turn it into points. South Otago used the wind well early on and first five Ben Smart opened the scoring with a penalty in the 13th minute. South Otago continued to press through the middle of the half and it paid off with pressure close to the St Kevin’s line giving centre Teimana Rewita the chance to pounce on a loose ball and score in the 25th minute.
The conversion by Ben Smart gave South Otago a 10›0 lead.
St Kevin’s lineout was effective and gave it good ball but the South Otago scrum began to dominate as the half wore on.
St Kevin’s took points when they were on offer and kicked a penalty with a few minutes left to make the score 10›3 at halftime. The sleet and rain returned late in the first half and both teams found whatever shelter they could to try to keep warm during the break.
South Otago brought on several reserves at halftime for the slog into the wind and weather. St Kevin’s kicked regularly to pin South Otago in its own territory and handling was difficult for both sides.
St Kevin’s kicked a penalty seven minutes into the half to make it 10›6 and then went over for an opportunist try two minutes later, to take the lead 11›10. The second half became a battle of attrition with both sides willing on defence and attack. St Kevin’s enjoyed a significant territorial advantage and the conditions contributed to regular handling errors.
St Kevin’s scored with four minutes to go to take a 16›10 lead but South Otago continued with a never›say›die attitude and was spurred into action from within its own 22 with time almost up. A couple of quick penalties gave South Otago momentum and it worked its way up to within centimetres of the St Kevin’s try line. Backs and forwards drove for the line in repeated phases, with the grandstand cheering the team on. However, resolute defence denied South Otago a try and the final whistle gave St Kevin’s the win, 16›10.
This brings the main Otago premier schools part of the SOHS season to a close. The SOHS team now looks to finish the season with Co›Ed Cup games, starting with an away game against Dunstan High School, on Wednesday, August