The South Otago High School First XV faced Mount Aspiring College for a home game in sunny conditions in Balclutha last Saturday afternoon.
Starting well, South Otago enjoyed early territorial advantage on the back of some strong forward play, until MAC broke out from well inside their own half and went all the way to score an unconverted try to grab an early 5-0 lead after just six minutes. Then South Otago earned a penalty and this was converted by Ben Smart to make the score 3-5 after eight minutes. South Otago continued their territorial dominance and prop Jomhel Gonzales burst through the defence for the home side’s first try after 12 minutes to make the score 8-5. The first half had the South Otago scrum dominating their opposition and in the 33rd minute Nick Roy carried several opposition players about 20m to score an outstanding try. This try was converted by Ben Smart to give South Otago a handy halftime lead of 15-5. MAC hit back just four minutes into the second half with another long-range try to close up the game at 15-12. Ben Smart then extended the lead with a converted penalty in the eighth minute of the half to make it 18-12. South Otago continued to dominate territory with hard running by both forwards and backs through the half but couldn’t deliver another try. MAC crossed the line again and converted the try to take a 19-18 lead with less than 10 minutes to go in a seesawing game. But South Otago continued to pile on the pressure and slick hands by the back line gave Jimmy Flannery space to score with only five minutes left. At 23-19 it was going to be a nail-biter finish. In the last play of the game, MAC once again used their backs to launch a raid from inside their own half finding space outside the South Otago back line. They quickly moved forward until an outstanding cover tackle from fullback Ryan Soper put the ball carrier into touch. The ref blew full time and South Otago celebrated its second win in a row. The team has good patterns of play developing. Danyon Benington played well in the unfamiliar lock position.